Learning to Take Second Place

Luther Blackmon
Noblesville, Indiana

All of us, at one time or another, will have to take second place. To most it will happen many times. There can be only one captain on the team, one President of the country, one chief of the tribe.

The marriage of a young couple has often been wrecked, or made unhappy to say the least, by a parent who would not accept second place in the life of her child. Fathers also have been guilty I suppose, but it just happens that in the cases I have known it has been the mother. This kind of possessiveness is not often admitted or even recognized by the guilty ones. They are "only trying to help." That may be true. But the couple could well do without that kind of "help." God said, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24)


Preachers, like other mortals, must expect the inevitable changes that come with the passing years. This means that even those who have enjoyed an enviable reputation and the praise and admiration that comes with such ability and reputation, must eventually relinquish their places to younger men and take a lower seat. I have known some who never conditioned themselves for this eventuality, and as a result became pathetic and sometimes a little obnoxious, and partially cast a shadow over the good they had done in other years.

God removed Saul (age had nothing to do with this) and placed David on the throne. Saul was not ready to step down, and tried for years to kill David. Saul was not the last one who threw spears at one who had replaced him. Envy is an ugly thing. Solomon said, "Envy is the rottenness of the bones." Envy may be, to some degree, in an older preacher, covered with the mantle of charity 'by those who remember the good he did in better times, but it should not have to be at all.

Here is a well known poem which describes what SHOULD be:

The Bridge Builder

"An old man going down a long highway, came at the evening cold and gray,

To a chasm vast and deep and wide, through which was flowing a swollen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim. The swollen stream held no fears for him.

But he paused when safe on the other side, and built a bridge to span the tide. Old man, said a fellow traveler near, you are wasting your strength laboring here.

Your life will end at the close of day. And you never again will pass this way. You have crossed the chasm deep and wide. Why build you the bridge to span the tide?

The traveler lifted his old grey head. My friend, in the path I've come he said, There followeth after me today, a youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm which has been as naught to me, to the fair-haired youth might a pitfall be.

He too must cross in the twilight dim, so friend, I'm building this bridge for him." (Author unknown)

July 1969