I remember when I was young and in high school. My dad was the pastor of a small Baptist church in Connecticut. We never had more than about 100 members, so it was a fairly small congregation. While there was a good handful of youth when my brother was in high school, there were only about 4 or 5 of us by the time I got to the youth group. I had a hard time feeling like I had such a small support group.
The college and career age group was much larger and I found myself spending an awful lot of time with them. My youth pastor and I connected very well and we would spend hours upon hours playing ping pong in the basement of the church, talking about the deep subjects of life, religion, and relationships. His brother was also part of the group and we connected as well. He played guitar, and for a young teenager like me, that was cool. We began hanging out and he began teaching we what he knew about playing guitar.
These guys were about fifteen years older than me, but back then, it seemed like they were light years ahead. I was in awe of them and appreciated the fact that they would spend time with a young guy like me. I never felt like I was a burden or a pain in the neck, even though I had to have shown my age on many occasions. These guys genuinely cared for me and loved me enough to invest in me, teach me, train me, and disciple me. What an incredible gift.
When you’re fifteen years old, the world seems so much bigger than it really is, you seem like you’re bulletproof and invulnerable. Twenty-five seems so far off and the idea of being thirty and married was an even further distant thought in my mind. While there were teenage dreams, they were just that, dreams, and they were never really entertained. I looked at the place where these guys were as so far off, a distant place at which I wouldn’t arrive for quite some time.
When I was in my early 30s, my wife and I moved to Asheville, North Carolina and I became an associate pastor at a church. I worked a lot with the youth and began to take a few of them under my wing. When that all happened, I began to realize that I was becoming THAT guy, the guy that I had looked up to, the guy who had become a friend and mentor to me.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at the time. It’s that dose of reality that gently nudges you, awakening you to what’s real and right in front of you and I didn’t know if I was ready for it. I gave myself plenty of time to grow up between the time that I was that fifteen year old boy and when I hit my early thirties. I got married later, carelessly spent my fair share of money, and had my heart broken a time or two. I had lived enough life to inject some maturity into my being, but not so much that I felt like it had left an indelible mark on me.
As I stood in a rehearsal the other day listening to sixteen year old sing one of the songs that I normally sing, I realized even more so how I had become THAT guy……and I smiled. I realized that, like it or not, I was embracing the role that I had found myself occupying. I was passing on the torch, I was becoming the mentor and realizing that I needed to empower, teach, and train all those that come after me.
It’s not always a good feeling to realize that “your time has passed.” I smile as I write that and think of the Rolling Stones and other geriatric rockers who continue to tour and make music although they’re grandparents and even great-grandparents. But when the music’s in you, you’ve got to let it out, I can’t fault them. But for me, I’ve got to pass on what I know, I’ve got to invest in those who come behind me, that’s my legacy. I have to try to instill in them the faith that has helped me to grow and become who I am today.
I’ve become THAT guy and I think that’s a good thing. I am so thankful for those two brothers who made an indelible mark on my life. Their care, concern, and love have helped me to be who I am today. Because of the investment that they made in me, I have a heart to pass that on to the next generation, much the same way that they invested and passed things on to me. Pay it forward, pass it on, invest in what is to come.