On our recent trip to the very beautiful Donegal in the wets of Ireland we got to visit one of the county’s gorgeous beaches situated in a cove hidden away at the foot of one of the mountains. Although it is still very much winter over here and the wind blowing in off the atlantic was brisk to say the least (“Arctic” would probably be a more accurate description), it was still great to get to the beach. I mean…who doesn’t love going to the beach?
Because Donegal’s beaches are on the west coast where the pounding atlantic wind and waves have shaped the coastline, the beaches are made up of the most luxurious fine, thick golden sand that stretches for miles along shorelines bordered with undulating golden sand dunes. It’s the kind of sand that you just know, the second you step onto the beach, is going to find it’s way into every nook and cranny of your clothing so that you’ll be tipping it out of your shoes and vacuuming it out of your car for weeks. You know…the kind of sand that’s so thick and fine that when you step on to it you immediately start to sink, making it difficult to walk with any controlled dignity and turning any idea of a gentile romantic stroll along the shore into an something akin to the shooting of an episode of the Walking Dead. That kind of sand.
After an hour or so on the beach in the freezing cold atlantic wind we decided that, whilst most of our group we still had some feeling left in our limbs, it would be a really good idea to hitch up the wagons and head en mass to locate a local coffee shop to invade. So off we lumbered collectively across the shifting golden sand to ascend the dunes and find the pathway that led back to our cars. Grace and I were bringing up the rear and as we approached the gently sloping grass dune it was clear that getting back up was going to take a little bit more effort than it had taken to come down (gravity just can’t let it go). The really useful thing about being among the last in our expedition to go back up to the cars I discovered however, was that it was easier to get back up the sand dune if we placed our feet in the same places that the guys had done before us and used their footprints like steps.
So…as we were doing this, I thought to myself…what a great metaphor for life!
You see, none of us are living in complete isolation. Each one of us live in a world full of “others”…over seven billion others in fact. And because there are so many of us, it’s pretty hard to find something that somebody else hasn’t done or tried to do at some stage or in some way before us. Cool huh? All that experience. All that knowledge. All that advice just waiting to be shared. And what do we do some many times? Ignore it.
Mark Twain is quoted as saying: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
When we’re young, we think we know all there is to know, and it’s only as we get older that experience teaches us otherwise. How much time do we waste thinking that we know best? How many avoidable mistakes do we make because we don’t stop to ask or take advice?
I love the book of proverbs. It’s full of great wisdom. Have you read it? I highly recommend that you do! Look at this:
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22 NIV
And what about this:
Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Proverbs 19:20 NIV
The wise will therefore seek the advice of the wise. Before embarking on a project, starting a business perhaps or getting involved in anything that is going to be new territory for us, it is always prudent to get around people who have been there and dome it before. Even if we are facing a personal trial of some sort, it is a good thing together with others who have been there before us. Experience is precious.
Of course advice should always come with a caveat and one of the best I’ve heard is from Baz Lurhmann’s Sunscreen:
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
and recycling it for more than it's worth
We shouldn’t ignore this wonderful world of others around us. There’s a wealth of experience out there for each us to mine, because as the author of the book of Proverbs also said in his other book Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9).
Maybe you have a dream bubbling around inside of you that’s waiting to come to life. Maybe you’ve had an idea fluttering around your head for a while now and don’t know how to do it or you’re just feeling nervous about getting it out there. Perhaps God has implanted a deep desire inside of you for something that you know will help many of those others that you share this planet with. Well my advice to you (for what it’s worth) is to look for the people who have gone before and find out how they did it. Track them down. They’re everywhere. In your community, in your family, in your church, your company, your school, in books, on the web and even on television. Read, listen, take a course, interview people…do all you can to dig up the jewels of experience that they have discovered along their pathway. It’s one of the reasons I wrote the Welcome to the Journey Discipleship Course, because I wanted to pass on to other people in a matter of mere hours the things that it took me over twenty years to understand properly. So whatever you want to do, there’s someone out there who knows how to do it, or at the very least how not to…and that’s just as priceless.
And by the way, while you’re at it…get a hold of a Bible if you don’t already have one, or download an app. The advice you’ll get there really is second to none. :)