“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”
Young men are full of energy and insight. Young men burst with fresh visions, move across the country with pennies in their pockets for new challenges, unimperiled by the inherent risks, but they have no real battle scars. They haven’t endured decades of demonic and cultural attacks. They stand taller than their fathers, only because their shoulders haven’t sunken in from years of heavy lifting and their backs haven’t been bent from carrying wounded comrades. An old saint though—he’s like a hulking river birch along the banks of a stream, well rooted in the soil of God’s faithfulness, well-watered by Heaven’s rain, well-fortified against winter storms and summer droughts and pestilences of all kinds. Even with broken limbs and charred bark and exposed roots, even with knots and burls and scars, even though the sands of time have shifted and the river has changed its course, he brings to that wilderness and to that church and to that family gathering and to that commonwealth the virtue that young men can only dream of achieving: an enduring life.
You won’t believe this, friend, but just now, right after putting that period to the above sentence, I looked up from my fold-up chair where I’m sitting in a shaded spot along the pebbled shore of the Cape Fear River and discovered for the first time why I’m not baking in the afternoon sun on this 93-degree North Carolina day. Sure enough, hovering over my head is exactly what I just described! The whole time I’ve been sitting here pondering how old saints are like mature river birches nestled by a stream, this quiet, old river birch has been shading my efforts, not boasting or demanding applause, but just being present. Just being what it is. Just being here to shade my own efforts as I, a young sapling, face my own day in the sun.
Young saints: we rest in the shade of our fathers. Our God-given work is made possible by their endurance. Our lives are lived as it were under their branches.
Old saints: keep inspiring the young to rise amidst our corrupt generation! And thank you for being our companion through the journey!