See how this idea matches your memories of younger days: An older relative, telling you a story about her or his life, ends the narrative with something like, “And let that be a lesson to you, Little Abercrombie—so you always remember to wash your hands before meals.” That story was a cautionary tale. And that beloved elder recognized and accepted that his or her life was filled with these stories. In fact, that perhaps all of his or her life was a cautionary tale.
To bring that forward to your present status among your peers or offspring: It’s likely that much of your life story is also a cautionary tale—your reflections regarding past mistakes of every kind now projected onto the screen of a younger person’s present circumstances or hopes.
Something profound is going on here—something found in much of the witness of Scripture: By themselves, few of your descendants, students or loved ones can always recognize or step around the recurring dangers that come their way in life. Absent the loving wisdom of older adults, they’d have to live their histories as a series of preventable mistakes—a sad existence—considering the high cost for repeated life-changing missteps.
Your warnings and admonitions—even your rebukes—can serve a valuable function in others’ lives. Even if you don’t tell instructive anecdotes, others can see how you have made decisions—how you’ve borne some of the consequences of choices that weren’t that well thought out. Your lifestyle tells stories. So do your relationships, your possessions and your triumphs after blunders.
Because of your life experiences, you can offer useful, godly wisdom to those who will follow you. You can help them avoid the mistakes you wish you hadn’t made!
You can be a helpful, hopeful cautionary tale….
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