When did my “black and white” turn gray?

It may be different for you, but when I was younger, brasher, more self-confident (and possibly more full of myself), at first glance the issues of life were clearer. Young adults just like young children seem eager to appear they “have it together.” James’ admonition “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19) bypasses a lot of us. My mouth engaged as quickly as my brain fired . . . . sometimes quicker. Was I smarter then? Have I lost the edge? I wonder.

Trust me, I’m not going to say that just because of advancing age people automatically grow wiser. I’d say that was a “stupid” conclusion but my grandson reminds me I am not to use that “bad” word. As the years pass, I’ve observed too much in others and myself to equate longevity with wisdom, but surely there ought to be at least some slight correlation between the two.

What I have observed is that nothing is quite as simple as it might seem, especially when it comes to people or relationships. When it comes to people, surely no two are the same. Experiences differ. Perceptions differ. Responses differ. We can never accurately say something like “I know just how you feel” or “I know what you are going through.” We know in part and feel in part. Every heart has its own torn or mending parts as well as compartments where matters are set aside for another time, if ever.

James 1:19 offers such rich advice to us. I’m trying more and more to apply it to myself. I know the world doesn’t spin to my music. I’m gaining ground on becoming a better listener. How about you? I’m finding I learn more about people and situations by listening long, enduring the silences and asking clarifying questions so I get a better grasp of a situation. Snap assessments and judgments which may characterize an earlier version of me are being replaced by a deeper understanding of why things might be the way they are. Life is complicated. Matters are not as clear as they may appear on the surface.

I’m also practicing a new skill that should prove helpful. It’s tough to master and I’ve seen a lot of older people do poorly at it, presumably thinking they have the “inside track” on most everything. The skill? It’s waiting to offer counsel or advice until asked for it. This is can be a tremendous challenge, especially with those closest to me. (How about you?) After all, as highly as I sometimes value my insights and opinions, I’d be a fool to squander them on the “undeserving.” Right? Age can and should provide us a wider perspective, and fools can be young or old. It just seems sadder when fools are older.

My struggle sometimes seems more a struggle to embrace dependence, not securing independence. More than anything, I find myself these days becoming increasingly dependent on God and his word, the source of all wisdom and knowledge, not trusting as much in my own as I once foolishly did. In James 1 and many, many other places in scripture, I find that God is more than willing to generously supply wisdom if we’ll ask and then trust that he’ll impart it. Regardless of any of our skills, talents or “giftings” by God, wisdom can become ours when we reverence God and acknowledge him as its source. He created color and is the one who rightly discerns all the shades between white and black. Think About It.