September 17, 2014

Older And Wiser? by Bryan Norford

The older I get the more likely the old saying, “There’s no fool like an old fool,” will apply to me. It’s too easy for a lifetime of learning, training, and experience to accumulate a formidable array of answers to the problems of life. We all develop a general idea of what life should be, a sort of matrix to lay over every life situation, but which rarely produces satisfying answers.

Although every life problem exhibits a stereotype of common symptoms, each one is unique. That’s why it’s always easier to solve other people’s problems—at least in theory—than fix our own. In fact, the older I get, it seems I have less answers to life. While I may accrue ideal guidelines for life events, the devil, as they say, is in the intractable details.

Ann and I face a particular irony. As we publish a second edition of our marriage devotional, Happy Together, some family marriages are falling apart. All our knowledge and advice is unlikely to save them. Here Paul’s words reveal some moderating counsel, “We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know,” 1 Corinthians 8:1–2

I’ve always maintained that the man who thinks he knows everything just doesn’t know what he doesn’t know; a sobering thought to an aging, arrogant mind. In fact, the more knowledge we accumulate, the greater the amount we realize we don’t know. This not only instils a deep humility, but our knowledge becomes increasingly deficient. So how can we respond to life?

This infinite unknown is true of life generally, but greatest when it comes to a growing awareness of God’s immensity. We know this instinctively, but it becomes real as we endeavour to learn about Him. The vastness of God himself, together with His attributes of love, mercy and grace, leaves us falling at his feet in speechless wonder and inadequacy.

Paul’s answer to our dilemma is love, on a number of levels. First, as most counsellors agree, we need to listen, not provide answers, even if we think we have them. In this sense a burden shared is halved, whether answers are apparent or not. Second, as long as we are all fallen creatures, we are always one with the other—whether their problems are of their own making or not.

Then we become spiritual comforters to the hurting and spiritual guardians alongside the fallen, not pharisaic advisors above them. The Bible heartily endorses the gaining of knowledge, but abuse of knowledge generates self-righteousness and superiority. Love provides the wisdom for its use.

I want to see “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10. Nothing in this life has meaning unless it contributes to this final destiny. So it’s important at any age for me to keep learning, but not just increasing knowledge. Love must be my teacher.


  1. Beautifully said, Bryan.

    I relate to your comment that the older we get, it seems we have less answers to life. Ahem... it's happening to me too!

    And the sentence... as long as we are all fallen creatures, we are always one with the other ...

    As ole Red Green used to say, keep your stick on the ice, we're in this together.

    Love, then, must be our response. It's the only answer big enough.


  2. "Love must be my teacher." i love that last line for its truthfulness. Yes, there is so much more to learning that just knowledge--funny how the older we get, the more we realize that is the way it is, at least if we're honest and seeking His Kingdom.

  3. Well thought out; well written. As for counselling or anything, it can all come under Paul's words in
    I Corinthians 16:14: Let all you do be done in love.
    I like the way you sum it up with regard for learning at any age rather than just increasing knowledge.

    Congratulations to you and Ann on your second marriage devotional!

  4. This was very well written Bryan. This part especially, spoke volumes: "Then we become spiritual comforters to the hurting and spiritual guardians alongside the fallen, not pharisaic advisors above them". Many Blessings to you and Ann on your writing journey!


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