"I hate to meet a man whom I have met ten years ago and find that he is at precisely the same point, neither moderated nor quickened nor experienced but simply stiffened."
I recently saw this quote on the blog PastorHacks, and it reminded me of how much some people really do change over the years, while others surprisingly don't. It also reminds me that sometimes, the change is not 100% for the better.
I was once interviewing for a ministry job and, naturally, had mentioned one of my good friends as a reference. This particular friend had been a PCA pastor for some time, and had been to seminary with the Senior Pastor at the church I was interviewing with. My friend, who was then and still is a wonderful, humble, and godly man of grace, had exhibited less gracious tendencies while in seminary, and this Senior Pastor remembered that well. "If you hold yourself out as someone like 'so-and-so' then I don't think this will work out," he said to me point-blank. What a shame that this man hadn't bothered to get acquainted with the great man that I knew.
In a similar incident, a man I know was interviewing (also for a staff position) with a Senior Pastor who had gone to seminary with the fellow's former boss. While the former boss was a good guy, he had softened over the years to the point where he had become a poor supervisor, yet according to my friend the boss was unwilling to accept any of the responsibility for the failures of those he supervised poorly. It happened to be that circumstances involving this poor supervision had led to my friend leaving this position. The two former classmates talked to discuss my friend, and naturally the Senior Pastor took the boss's word about the young candidate-- even though he other references contradicted the boss's account. As far as the Senior Pastor was concerned, the boss was still the same great guy he knew in seminary.
I think of people I knew 10 years ago-- especially people I served in ministry, sometimes poorly. How would they receive me today? Would they extend me grace, expecting and looking for ways that God had matured me since they last knew me well? A verse comes to mind as I consider this...
[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
~1 Corinthians 13:7
And then I think of the guys I went to seminary with. Some of them were great guys who were a bit too full of themselves; others had a touch of immaturity to shake off. I'm sure I struck many of them in similar ways. How will the Lord mature them over the coming years? How will he change me in that time? I pray that I would be able to see them with fresh eyes down the line.
To rest in the fact that "love always hopes" (or as another translation phrases it, "love hopes all things") encourages me that those who knew me when I was not yet the man I am today might, in love, see me without prejudice-- and that those who know me today, when I am not yet the man I will, Lord willing, become, might also.