I always wanted to be Gandalf. A natural leader, Gandalf was wise, powerful, and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in the battle against evil. So I took this online fun test expectantly. It was supposed to tell me which fantasy/sci-fi character I most resemble. And I am Yoda.
I am this short, funny, green creature with hair growing out of his ears. I am this guy who speaks with sentences that lead with the object. Confused, I am.
Anyway, here is the summary for Yoda from the test:
Yoda: A venerated sage with vast power and knowledge, you gently guide forces around you while serving as a champion of the light.
Well, put that way it doesn’t sound that bad.
Maybe my resistance to being Yoda is a mild protest to growing old? I have been called a sage in one blog. Ok, Gandalf is not exactly young. But at least he is still in the thick of the action.
When we first encounter Yoda in Star Wars Episode 5, he is hiding from the evil Emperor. But he gets to mentor Luke Skywalker. His job done, he passes on in Star Wars Episode 6. Not exactly thoughts I am drawn to having just passed my 50th birthday.
No, I never wanted to be Yoda. But maybe Yoda is what I should be at this stage of my life.
Gordon T. Smith says that one of the vocational tasks of those in their mid-adult to senior years is to bless others especially those younger then themselves. He writes:
To bless is simply to affirm; to take particular delight and joy in someone in a manner that is neither judgmental nor prescriptive. Blessing is often evidenced in the joy that one person takes in being in the company of the other. It is evidenced in the gifts that are given “the gift of time, the gift of opportunities and the gift of skills passed on.”
But the time spent with the other and the skill passed on is secondary, grounded in taking joy in the one who is blessed, in giving freely without prescription.? (COURAGE & CALLING, 72).
Smith might as well be writing about friendship.
Recently, I was having lunch with a young couple. They were wrestling with various vocational decisions and were getting little help from their church. So they wanted to have a chat with uncle Soo-Inn.
In the course of the meal, one of them asked what I was doing. I smiled and said that I was in the “friendship ministry”.
At first he was a bit confused. I guess most people associate the word “ministry” with some sort of official church programme. “Friendship ministry” must have sounded like an oxymoron. But he was sharp and caught on quick.
Friendship is enjoyed for its own sake, a celebration of the other. In the words of Smith again, it is “to take particular delight and joy in someone in a manner that is neither judgmental nor prescriptive. Blessing is often evidenced in the joy that one person takes in being in the company of the other. It is evidenced in the gifts that are given” “the gift of time, the gift of opportunities and the gift of skills passed on.”
Smith’s words describe clearly the nature of the blessing of a friend. Indeed I much prefer the term “friend” than “sage” or “mentor”. Terms like “sage” and “mentor” run the danger of distracting from the fact that all wisdom comes from God. The term “friend” carries fewer pretensions.
In fact, the term was not too lowly for Jesus Himself (John 15:12 -15). He is not only prophet, priest and king, He is also “friend”, a role that has received little treatment in Christology. It should. God reveals himself as prophet, priest and king but finally as our friend. We shouldn’t be surprised that in God’s economy, the lowliest designation becomes the highest.
So if you ask me whether I am committed to mentoring young leaders a’la Yoda, I will answer yes, but quickly go on to say that these are truly two way relationships, where I receive as much, or more, than I give. In fact I am conscious of such relationships as ones where I basically enjoy the company of my friends.
Which is not to say that we do not need a whole generation of Luke Skywalkers. One of my burdens is to see young adults activated by a sense of purpose and vocation. We desperately need a whole new generation of Skywalkers to salt and light the 21st Century.
And I don’t see many Yoda’s out there. Many of our best people are too tied up heading and running institutions. They don’t have the time, or they do not understand the crucial need, to nurture emerging leaders.
Programmes alone just won’t cut it. People have to be nurtured one by one. People have to be nurtured relationally, personally. As Eugene Peterson warns in a recent article on the Christianity Today website:
“So, how do you help all these people? The needs are huge. Well, you do it the way Jesus did it. You do it one at a time. You can’t do gospel work, kingdom work in an impersonal way. We live in the Trinity. Everything we do has to be in the context of the Trinity, which means personally, relationally. The minute you start doing things impersonally, functionally, mass oriented, you deny the gospel. Yet that’s all we do.” (March 2005)
As I enter my 50th year, I ponder afresh as to how my vocation is to be carried out in this chapter of my life. I will need time to seek the Lord afresh. I welcome the input of my friends.
Me, Yoda? Hiding out in the swamps of evangelicalism? Befriending and encouraging a few key young leaders? Feels about right. Contented, this one is.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan