Satchel Paige, star of the old Negro League and Major League Baseball, once advised, “Don’t look back, someone might be gaining on you.” Like most “rules,” that too possesses an exception. I experienced that yesterday. Jim Price, a friend from 50 years back retired from pastoring a church for the past 37 years, and the organizers of the celebration asked me to share five minutes.
Condensing 50 years into five minutes forces a lot of recollections and refining and focusing. Here’s my take—Jim is an Emersonian, following Ralph’s credo, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Jim does not have a little mind—wise inconsistencies abound. He can be exceptionally generous; he once drove his Explorer on a thousand mile Sierra trip and wouldn’t let me help with gas. But another time he asked me to speak at a men’s retreat, and had me pay the full charges.
He can be remarkably stable; his hair has been the same length and style for all 50 years. OK, he’s gained a bit of face, but not much gray. But counter that stability with danger, he took me fishing at South Lake above Bishop when I didn’t have a license, guaranteeing me we wouldn’t get caught. He also guaranteed that the man with a khaki shirt who talked to every fisherman lakeside wasn’t a warden. But that guarantee didn’t involve paying the ticket I received from that warden.
That large mind thinks and explores and willingly embraces good and new ideas, and led to Ph.D. in Theology. Graduate work at Harvard Divinity School. A wide variety of books. And, it challenges people to stretch themselves as he does himself.
So, how can our futures benefit from looking back at Jim’s life and our friendship? Four suggestions we could all follow.
1. Be flexibly wise and avoid being rigid on issues that don’t warrant it. Craft an openness to learning and stretching yourself.
2. Take some risks. I don’t suggest you tease Sierra bears as he’s been known to do, but go beyond safe to great at times.
3. Have sticky relationships. In a friendship of 50 years or a ministry of 37, issues arise. Value the connections enough to work through them. Emerson agreed, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” They enrich us.
4. Love God, and serve him with people. Jim has led four trips to Kilimanjaro to raise funds for missions, largely in Africa. His care for people has made the 37 years work. We too will benefit spiritually as we do these.
Kick Starting the Application
Of the above four traits, which do you most identify with? How has it benefitted you? Which challenges you the most? Why? How do you determine which issues to flex on and which to hold strong to? What risk has most paid off for you? How many significant friendship do you have for more than ten years? Can people see your love for God in how you give yourself to others?