How many books have you read in the last year, of which, the purpose was to straighten you out? I don’t mean the books claimed they would make you perfect, but the ones that would give you the spiritual edge you’ve been looking for or help you understand how to better follow Jesus?
It may seem foolish for a book to claim something like this outright, but look at the topics they deal with: prayer, discipline, temptation, devotion, servanthood and many others. The author is trying to explain to you things they know or have discovered. However, not everything printed is worth reading.
I think those topics are getting after one simple thing – discipleship. You are seeking to improve your spiritual life in an area where you see a deficit. That’s not a bad thing, and I’m glad you’ve taken steps toward being more like Jesus. Truth be told, there are a number of those books on my own shelves.
The problem with discipleship is that it can’t be done very well through a medium (not a palm reader, but a communication tool). It’s tough for a book, blog, or podcast to teach you in the same way a person can.
I am at an assisted living campus every Tuesday for a Bible study, and every other Sunday for church. When I started, just over 2 years ago, I had a bit of an arrogant attitude about it. I was doing ministry through my own church (check), I was getting experience preaching (check), and I was helping unfortunate people who couldn’t get to their own church (check). Basically, I would be ministering to them.
It turns out that none of them were “get off my lawn” elderly people. Sure, some of their memories aren’t what they used to be, but the biggest reason for living there is that their bodies just don’t allow them to do the things they used to. However, their souls are still vibrant, and they are some of the sweetest people on the planet.
I bring this up because their lives have been lived through the Great Depression, World War 2, the Korean War, Vietnam, marriage, children, singleness, love, loss, tragedy, victory and any other number of circumstances, many of which I haven’t seen and have trouble imagining. And the most important part is that they still love Jesus.
They’re not scholars or professors with advanced degrees, but they know what it means to be in situations where Jesus is the only thing they have. They know what it means to go through hell on earth and be brought out the other side by Almighty God. Their faith has been tested and has been proven true.
I’m sure some of them show up out of habit and maybe are just used to going through the motions, but the way most of them love God and Scripture means that I am getting to spend time with some amazingly devoted followers of Christ.
They’re not just in Fort Worth and they’re not just in assisted living communities. There are some of these devoted followers where you live, if you’ll take the time to look for them. I suggest you don’t waste time, though. Unlike your books, these gems are dying. That’s not to be morbid, but every life that begins must end, and these folks are in the latter stages of their lives. It is sad, but it also means that every question you have now, they’ve had to deal with in the past.
Books are of some value, sermons are of some value, and blogs are of some value too. What these people offer is guidance, wisdom and obedience that has grown throughout the course of their lives. Regardless of how highly you may regard Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler and others, I don’t think they can hold a candle to elderly believers who have walked with Jesus through nearly the entire course of a life.
None of these people would say they are saints – in fact, most of them realize how much they fall short now better than at any other stage of their lives. They may not wow you with exegetical efficiency or intellectual prowess, but they offer insight from spiritual growth that can’t be manufactured.
I am a fool for thinking of what I was going to give to those people. They appreciate me and are extremely gracious to me, but they have no idea how much they have shown me.
Given their sincere humility, they may not even believe it.
About Jake Harvey: For the past four years, Jake has held a secret security job protecting citizens of Fort Worth. Really, it’s just him riding around in his pickup truck with a shotgun. While driving around, his music choices go from Waylon Jennings to Clutch to TV on the Radio. When he stops at red lights, he is often reminded of his severe dislike of the Chicago Cubs and whining. When Jake’s patrol stops at the local 7-11 to scout out any troublemakers or hooligans, he always has to get a pack of gum and a strong cup of coffee. Jake also spends time studying economic theory, buying books and guns, and resisting the urge to breakdance when he sees cardboard on the ground. You can follow him @jakeharvey6.
*Photo credit: Akash_Kurdekar