The Colonel

I meet with a counselor every week. We’ve been sharing life together for just over six months now. It has been one of the top three most transformative experiences of my life.

My counselor has a striking resemblance to the Colonel of KFC. Thus he affectionately goes by “the Colonel” among my close friends. Last week when I met with him, I told him that I’ve begun to view the $85 a week as a “grandfather tax.” And I pay it gladly, joyfully. Something in my young heart as a man is learning through him what it feels like to walk through life with a grandfather.

He’s a giant. Outwardly he may appear older, maybe even irrelevant in a culture that worships “youth.” From a distance he may even appear frail. But make no mistake. When you are in his presence, he is an oak tree.

I find myself resting in his shade. He sees me better, more accurately, than I see myself. He’s not exhausted by me or by my pessimism. He tears up with a smile in his brilliant eyes at the man I am and leaps for joy at the man I’m becoming. I see dimly the man he sees so vividly in me. But it gives me hope. And through him, God is peeling layer after layer off of my false self. Someone new is emerging: the truest me.

I’ve been noticing “old” people more and more. It’s hard and sad to watch strength, vibrancy, and vitality ebb from their bodies like a passing tide.

Yet, I am keenly aware in these observations of one simple fact: as men age, they fall strikingly into one of two categories. One group of “old men” seems to be dead- men-walking. They seem to be shadows of their former selves. They seem sad, waning, and have little stature. The best parts of their lives are lived only in memories. Their best days are behind.

The second category is “old men” who are much more than meets the eye.  At first pass, they may appear “old.”  Yet take a closer and slower look and the hidden treasure is revealed.  There is light in their eyes.  Inwardly, there is strength.  They are mighty oaks. They are fountains of wisdom.  Beacons of hope.   Laughter is true and easily accessible.  There is a resting, settledness, and something that I can only describe as an eager expectation deep within them for what’s to come.
Just this week I encountered another giant. I cued up an hour-long Dallas Willard seminar on my laptop and jumped on the spinning bike. Five minutes into it there was so much substance, “weightiness”

(C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory), to his teaching that I had to turn it off and savor it, digest it. What I treated like some commodity – content to consume- I instead found to be a rich and substantive treasure beyond my years. Shade for me to rest me eager soul. Here is strength. They are mighty oaks. They are fountains of wisdom. Beacons of hope. Laughter is true and easily accessible. There is a resting, settledness, and something that I can only describe as an eager expectation deep within them for what’s to come.

Rob Jones, Dallas Willard, the Colonel, Thomas Keating, Eugene Peterson.

Whether I have met them in person, or only through their teachings, these men have become to me more than oaks even: they have become towering Sequoias.

I was in the great Redwoods of northern California this past spring. A native was sharing an interesting fact about these massive and glorious trees. There are varied causes of death for the Redwoods, but “old age” in not one of them.

I am a man in need of great giants whose lives are not diminished by age, but rather enhanced. I need their assurance. I need their laughter, their ease, their hope, their affection, and their camaraderie.

I wonder what I’ll be like as a grandfather. I watch the Colonel with me. And the Father fills me with hope and longing. Longing to be available one day to my adult kids and their spouses and children. I hope they will rest in my shade.

 

 

 

 

 

Proverbs tells stories of Wisdom being woven into the very fabric of all creation. And of Wisdom being the Craftsman at God’s side as He fashioned all of creation. (Proverbs 8).

One of the most accessible ways of experiencing that Wisdom is to slow down enough to be present to these great giants.

We must find these shading older men. They are rare. But they are available. Ask the Father everyday to bring them to you, until you have them.

And then become them.

 

The Unsettling of America

While Berry is remarkable on many topics, his writing on power and how we handle it is remarkably insightful.  In this work, he relates it to the land we inhabit and how we care (or don’t care) well for it.  Berry is a revolutionary against a culture that worships knowledge and information but in many ways has turned a blind eye toward wisdom (Proverb 8).  Berry, including “What are People For,” is thought provoking and a deeply shaping voice from yesterday.

The following is the description from Amazon:

Since its publication by Sierra Club Books in 1977, The Unsettling of America has been recognized as a classic of American letters. In it, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline. Today’s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families. As a result, we as a nation are more estranged from the land—from the intimate knowledge, love, and care of it.
Sadly, as Berry notes in his Afterword to this third edition, his arguments and observations are more relevant than ever. We continue to suffer loss of community, the devaluation of human work, and the destruction of nature under an economic system dedicated to the mechanistic pursuit of products and profits. Although “this book has not had the happy fate of being proved wrong,” Berry writes, there are good people working “to make something comely and enduring of our life on this earth.” Wendell Berry is one of those people, writing and working, as ever, with passion, eloquence, and conviction.