Halfway there


It was an unusually drab and drizzly day for Sydney when we packed up the office and headed to Kipling’s for lunch. Kipling’s has three drawcards: the spicy tacos, the dark, flourless chocolate cake, and, on a day like this, the roaring fire.

I’ve got a bit of grey hair now and so do my friends. The results of our decisions are in. And I don’t know a single person—not one—who is better off for abandoning the faith. And I know many who are far, far worse.

We ensconced ourselves in the overstuffed red leather chairs by the fire, and thus began a most satisfying luncheon. It wasn’t just the chilli lime on the crisp tacos or the creamy ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers; it was the easy depth of the conversation that made the lunch memorable.

We talked about our favourite books. We laughed about our strangest experiences. And we dreamed about our next travel adventures.

About the time the bitter chocolate cake arrived, one of my younger colleagues asked for my sage advice.

It’s a reasonable question to ask a man of a certain age. And, it turns out, I’m about to become such an age. This is the final editorial you will receive from me in my 40s, as sometime between the time I’m writing, and the time you’re reading, my chronometer clocks over to 50.

Sometimes you learn the most from your mistakes. And I’ve made my share. Maybe the biggest was that I wasted my 20s on being far too responsible and sensible. Yes, I got a first-rate education and matured through complex responsibilities. But there are lots of ways to mature that would have been more risky, and also more interesting. Starting a business, working in an exotic location, getting involved in politics or policy advocacy, pursuing an artistic passion. Any of them.

Instead I spent my 20s playing it safe. That’s seldom a good formula in life. Instead, take the plunge to pursue your highest dreams in your 20s. It’s never going to be easier.

There are plenty of other mistakes, the greatest of which were times when I failed to be generous in thought or action. It’s remarkable how quickly the things we struggle for shrink into obscurity. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Let God work out the rest. I wish I always had.

There are also a few things I got right. While most of my friends left the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I stayed the course. Not because it was easy. But because I love Christ and I know I could never be at peace if I turned my back on Him. And I know in my heart that this Church has the closest thing we have to truth on this earth.

I’ve got a bit of grey hair now and so do my friends. The results of our decisions are in. And I don’t know a single person—not one—who is better off for abandoning the faith. And I know many who are far, far worse.

From alcohol problems to gambling addictions, from marriage issues to criminal indictments, my former Adventist friends have paid an enormous price for leaving their first love. Extraordinarily in this age, I even have former-Adventist friends who took up smoking. One of my best friends who became a smoker died of a heart attack in his 40s. I miss him terribly. But it’s not just the obvious problems; there is something deeper. There is a disquiet among those who leave the Church that speaks of an unsettled soul.

A close friend, who is a partner at a very prestigious law firm, wrote to me the other day. The firm’s gorgeous offices sit in the trendiest part of Washington, DC. She told me she was discussing with another one of the lawyers “all the interesting adventures you have had since leaving” the law firm.

They’re right. The day I followed God’s call, walked out of the law firm and left behind the gilded life it promised, was the day my professional life really began. I love my work for the Church. And the strange thing? Despite earning a small fraction of my law firm income, God has given me everything I could ask for materially—and even better, He has surrounded me with love. His love. And the love of my beautiful wife and children.

So what is the sum of this old man’s advice? Don’t listen to the knockers. Don’t fall for the temptations. Don’t be timid. Have complete faith in God. Take all the risks He leads you to. And enjoy life in His grace to the full. You’ll never regret it. 

James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.