“Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else.”- Fred Rogers
When the lovers of God teach you truth, a fountain of life opens up within you, and their wise instruction will deliver you from the ways of death." - Proverbs 13:14 (TPT)
He moves about Middle-Earth with a vast knowledge of its history. After all, he has been there for much of it, since the Third Age. He is both confident in who he is, and humble with those whom he serves. He is a guide to many, for that is what he does - he helps. Some may say, “Gandalf isn’t real,” to which I would reply, “Oh, he is very real.” Did he really live? Well, that is a different question altogether.
Characters, whether fictional or factual, live. It is how they lived that must be seen. C. S. Lewis called the Gospel the “true myth,” and said that its truth is a mythic reality. That is the power of truth. Our desire for something more is just that, mythical - right up until it finds us and then it becomes our reality. Gandalf is real, just like Mr. Miyagi and Yoda are real. Just because they didn’t live doesn’t mean their actions and words don’t. They live in a world that allows them to offer truth. I’m not suggesting truth is subjective. I believe deeply that there are truths that are hard and fast and those that even live outside of our boundaries of understanding. And yet, during times when we need to discover what is true, God has many agents, characters, and teachers he can deploy to guide us to deeper understanding through right interpretation of our circumstances. How do the Elder-Sages come to know? Ask them.
An elder is a person who is valued for wisdom and holds a “position” of responsibility and authority. He has become wise through experience. A sage is defined as someone who has attained wisdom and lives wisely. A sage is considered a virtuous person, an advisor of good judgment because of his years of experience and ability to reflect. The best of the Elder-Sages seem to know how to ask questions that help you discover the truth for yourself or share the truth in such a way that invites you to the next questions on your journey.
I have had many Elder-Sages in my life. Not all are still here, mind you: Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis, A. W. Tozer, and Dallas Willard, to mention just a few. Some of my heart’s council has come from characters, very real to me, and yet who didn’t live or walk a day on this earth. Characters like Dumbledore, Morpheus, Gandalf, and Aslan. Then there are those who are still very much alive, the likes of Graham Cooke, John Eldredge, Dan Allender, and my own father, Big Jim. These are the men who continue to speak into my life and whose journeys are of great comfort to mine. Scripture is full of wise counsel and sagely counselors. The Epistles are all written by older men. Did you know Peter, James, John, and Paul were all writing thirty and forty years after their three-year expedition with Jesus and after their missionary journeys? Peter is a changed man by the time he writes his letters. How else do you explain his words, “Clothe yourself with humility…” in 1 Peter 5? That’s not the Peter in the Gospels. That rooster did something to him … wisdom hard earned.
God is the ultimate Elder-Sage, by the sheer title in which He chooses to be known, Father. He wants to be known, trusted, and He wants the job of validating and initiating his sons and daughters into who they have it in them to be. That is the job of the Elder-Sage, to see the gold in a person, see their glory, and call it out. The Elder-Sage also sees what is in the way of a person’s glory; their woundedness, and carries them to Jesus for healing.
The Larger Gospel and love of God must be found by every generation. The Elder-Sages are the ones who can help you find and recover it (granted, they have experienced it for themselves). Experiencing the love of God that both heals them and makes turns them into the friends of God. Like I said, not every elderly person is an Elder-Sage, but you can learn something from every elderly person; either whom you want to be like or who you don’t.
The great question to ask any Elder-Sage is, “What do you think?” To know if you have one, the best of them will pause, look down, then look you in the eye and return your question with, “Hmm, that’s a good question, what do you think?” If you make the mistake of talking, you may never know. But if you press in just a little, “No, I’d really like to know what you think.” They’ll probably smile and take a deep breath and then tell you the story you have always longed to hear, the story of walking with God and learning the lesson they are now attempting to give you.