Friday, March 28, 2014

Lunch With a Wise Man

I had lunch the other day with a friend. He’s also a client. He’s in his 80’s but maintains the appearance of someone not a day over 65. We chit-chatted about family and the weather for a while but then the conversation veered off into more serious topics about which he has much more expertise and experience. I had sent him an e-mail several weeks ago asking for his guidance, and now I was getting it.

The guidance I was seeking was in the arena of theology, a topic rife with trip wires and land mines. Who better to ask than an octogenarian pastor with 60 years of ministry experience? If I would have recorded our hour and a half conversation, I could have made a million bucks!

He started out this way, “Doug, the first thing I should say is that I’m not going to be able to provide answers to all of your questions, because they have also been my questions throughout most of my life.” From a man who scaled the heights of his profession, who is widely respected for his intelligence and accomplishments, the first thing I get from him is…humility.

My questions for him concerned theological doubts that I have been struggling with, largely centered on the unanswerable questions of eternity and the complexity inherent in competing truth claims, etc.. I won’t go into the details here because they aren’t important. As I listened to him, I realized that my doubts have plagued much greater minds than mine. That, in and of itself, was comforting. Then he hit me with a series of amazing insights. I will paraphrase them:

“You know Doug, for years I used to get up every morning and repeat that great verse from Psalms, this is the day that the Lord hath made, let us be glad and rejoice in it. But I don’t do that as often as I used to. Now I find myself repeating another verse, this one from 2 Corinthians 10 that says: “..casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” You see Doug; there are some things that I’m never going to fully comprehend this side of eternity. It’s not anti-intellectualism to admit the limits of human understanding. So, every morning, along with all of my other problems, I hand over my doubts to God too.”

This from a man who has suffered great, crushing loss of those nearest and dearest to him, a man who along with great accomplishment, has also known great disappointment. Despite it all, he sits across the table from me confident, triumphant, and full of love for God and zest for life.

No, he didn’t answer all of my questions, partly because he doesn’t have the requisite ego and arrogance to assume that he could. But he did provide powerful insights that I hadn’t considered, insights forged through years of diligent study and observation. I came away thinking that there is room in Christianity for a quirky, over-thinking skeptic like me.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Vander Warner Jr.