A Hill To Die On

I remarked to a church member lately that a certain matter wasn’t “a hill to die on.” We tried something new, but I told him if people didn’t like it, we’d go back to what we had. It occurred to me that I’ve mellowed in my senior years. There was a time I had several hills picked out for my last stand—just like Gen. Custer.

One was the weekly newsletter we had years ago. The church secretary thought that if she could hurry up, get it printed and mailed before the weekly deadline she earned God’s approval. I always instructed her to let me proof the copy before she went to press. One week I had a conference and was out for a day. True to form, she went to press the Tuesday I was away. When I returned I saw she’d had my Sunday scripture listed as Psalms 23 instead of Psalm 23. “Psalms” is the entire book, but individual chapters are a “psalm.” I had her re-do the newsletter before mailing.

Whereas she needed to know I was serious about proofing, in retrospect, I might have been the only person who noticed the incorrect reference had it been mailed as printed originally. I believe now this was a molehill rather than a hill to die on.

The trade-off for wisdom is that it comes with time after bad choices. We often joke about exchanging our aging bodies but keeping our mature brains, but, unfortunately, life doesn’t partner this way.

The scriptures extol the value of the elders—the aged of the faith community who imparted wisdom in decision-making. Elders received some of their wisdom from God, to be sure, but they also received it from a lifetime of choices, disappointments and regrets.

One Presbyterian elder told me about a session meeting they’d had with the pastor. The young minister grew incensed over some policy about which he was overruled, and my elder friend told him to calm down and hush.

“There’s no use in arguing,” he said. “It’s just a matter of calendars. We’ve been around much longer than you and have more wisdom!”

I’d never heard this phrase before, but it’s a good one. Calendars bring wrinkles to our faces and gray to our temples, but also wisdom to our minds. The church needs the wisdom of her seniors.

That’s not to say we don’t need the enthusiasm of the young. We certainly do. Paul instructed Timothy not to let any man despise his youth, but also not to rebuke an elder but afford him double honor (1 Timothy 4: 12, 5:1, 17). Mutual respect makes the church effective in the work of the Lord.