I've noticed that rounding the corner towards age 40 is a humbling experience.
One gift that comes with working in a congregation is the multi-generational perspective a person accesses. For instance, I visited a woman named Arlene for several years. She was a spry, wise woman in her 90's. One day, when she was especially feeling her age, she said something I may never forget: "I'd give anything to be 80 again!"
I spent some time thinking about my age during a basketball tournament this weekend, where I was not unhappy to be a bench warmer. It was the best place for this 37-year old to be. There was a time when I did not warm the bench and was not too shabby at basketball. There were other things I was not too shabby. Like playing piano, trumpet, French Horn, softball, singing, and sprinting (never all at once). And now...well, here comes 40!
To tell the truth, the ministry is an odd career if a person begins it young, like I did. At a young age, clergy are expected to have great wisdom about life. Specifically, at times, we are expected to be voices of wisdom about all of life, from its beginning to its end, including tragedy, dying, major health decisions, family crises, depression, divorce, child rearing, and sometimes even a person's sex life.
It is a career in which, at a young age, I felt inadequate even though I was as old as I could possibly be. But the thing about wisdom is that no one person has it all. Certainly that is another gifts of being a pastor. A pastor is given the gift of glimpsing the collective wisdom of a community. Collective wisdom comes sometimes in big pieces or small.
It is very possible to miss the wisdom in another if one does not pay attention. Here it is. Even the bench warmer might know when to call a timeout. Or how to be a cheerleader for her teammates (who not as near to 40 and quicker and still remember how to put the ball in the basket)! The wisdom from the bench might include how to be grateful for a bench to warm as part of the team.