Older and wiser


Birthdays prompt reflection on what we’ve learned

We are older now. That’s a fact, and every day is an appropriate occasion to make this declaration. Sometimes we say it with a wink, announcing our newfound insight and wisdom. Sometimes we say it with a little nostalgia, inferring that the former days were really great, perhaps even better in some ways. Sometimes the words announce that we have given up on our dreams and backed away from the naïve enthusiasm of former days. 

One of the ways many folks finish the phrase is to add, “and we are wiser.” There have been times when I have talked with myself, an aging thing I guess, about the old adage that says, “Youth is wasted on the young.” There is a part of me that buys into that these days. OK, a pretty big part. 

The truth is that I would love to have been able to be younger and know all that I know now, little as it is, through learning from books, life, my wife, my kids, friends, colleagues, media, mistakes and what not all else. Even my brother said to me the other day that he thought I had mellowed over the years. Seems to me that I remember mellow as being on the verge of overripe and a hair’s breadth from rotting. But I don’t think he meant that. So I am older, but what has it begotten? That is what I’m thinking about these days. 

It’s not only me. It’s also us. We have turned 150. If that was not on your radar, then you picked it up in the last Christian Leader. Our Mennonite Brethren family of faith has put on some miles in the last century and a half. It’s pretty amazing that it was 18 Brethren who, on behalf of themselves and their families, signed a Document of Succession Jan. 6, 1860, that also signified their covenant of renewal. I say amazing because now, 150 years later, we are a global community of 15 countries on five continents including somewhere around 300,000 brothers and sisters. 

In itself this is pretty cool because based on our name some might think that only brothers could belong. Which makes me wonder about our name and whether in that regard we are wiser now. And what about the other part of our name that seems pretty much in tension with the biblical teaching that says we shouldn’t identify ourselves by someone’s name. But for now, we are thinking about age not name.

So it is the “wiser now” thing we need to park on for a bit. For many of the last decades we have been in a perennial quest to clarify and agree on our family identity and story. We were born in a cradle of renewal and mission. The early days were marked by home-based Bible studies that resulted in a warm spiritual passion and mutual accountable commitment to living every day as authentic genuinely heart-transformed and believer-baptized followers of Jesus. 

Our spiritual forefathers were keen on pursuing healthy relationships and being peacemakers. These expressions of personal and transforming faith were committed to and demonstrated in a covenant community of believers. The passion to follow and obey Jesus in everything and to let the Bible be the last word on everything resulted in a radically obedient family of believers (read Brethren) and an unstoppable evangelistic fervor. 

That is why we get to have a 150th birthday party this year. Well, actually, all 18 national sister conferences will have a party. There will, however, be two big blowout celebrations, one in Germany in May and another in Canada in July. Now that we are older, it is time to both reflect and celebrate and to figure out if we are wiser. 

The Vancouver event will include our USMB National Biennial Convention, which we are calling Conection 2010. We will have a couple of days to talk about “Renewing our Identity and Mission.” It will be a chance to evaluate whether we have gotten wiser with age. The plans also include several days for global connection and celebration. We are hoping and praying it will help us gain wisdom as we keep aging. Seems we might be able to learn a thing or two alongside having a great time at the party. It would be great if you were there. 


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