"The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old." Proverbs 20:29
Gray hair should be respected. The ancient perspective on gray hair, as reflected in Proverbs, is that it means someone has lived long and has accumulated wisdom along the way. Growing old means we lose physical strength and endurance, but it also means we gain something of even greater value: knowledge and insight about life and godly living. That is wisdom.
Young men are known for their physical prowess, ability and toughness. This is nowhere better observed than in the game of football. Young men in peak physical condition test their skill and strength like warriors in battle. I marvel at the hits receivers, linemen and quarterbacks receive, yet bounce back up to resume play. The glory of these young men is certainly in their strength and perseverance.
Danny Wuerffel is one man who tested his physical aptitude on the football field, and did so with remarkable ability. He led his Florida team to three SEC championships and won the Heisman Trophy in his senior year. Although never becoming a star at the next level of play, he did make it to the National Football League. Danny’s glory was in his strength.
But the story of his physical ability and toughness is only part of the story of Danny Wuerffel’s glory. Danny was invited by the Playboy organization to be a member of their all-America College preseason football team and a chance to be their Athlete of the Year. This honor would come with an all-expense-paid trip to a fancy resort and a photo-shoot with other college players named to the team.
While Danny may have regarded this invitation as an honor, he didn’t accept it. Commenting on his decision to decline the offer Danny said, "It didn’t take any thought at all. That’s not the type of person I’d want to portray myself as." He added, "My commitment is to represent God in all I do."
While the glory of a young man may be his physical conditioning and ability, there is a deeper strength that shines even brighter and lasts much longer: his character. Long after Danny has put down the football to pursue other interests in life, the story of his decision and the glory of his character lives on. I don’t remember his passing and touchdown statistics, but I do remember that he looked at an attractive offer, an opportunity for recognition and pleasure, and said, "No. That kind of attention in that kind of an environment is not what my life is about."
Young men need physical endurance to be healthy and to perform demanding tasks, especially if their work is in athletics or manual labor. But they need more than just the toning of their bodies to successfully perform at life. They need the toning of their hearts. Through instruction at home and church, they need their hearts developed to love God and pursue his way for their lives. The heart is the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23). Through consistent teaching it can provide a lifetime of wholesome thoughts, pure behavior and moral fortitude. But if it is not painstakingly nurtured and cared for, instead of being moral and upright, the wellspring of his heart can become stagnant, even putrid and unholy. Instead of pursing a life of moral integrity, a man can become lost in the abundance of unwholesome sensual pleasures.
Mouths that erupt with vulgarity and unclean speech, eyes that are given to pornography, and behavior that is indecent, all point to a wellspring that is becoming polluted. In a young man there is still, prayerfully, time to intervene and make difference.
That’s why role models like Danny Wuerffel are so valuable, and why so many more are needed. He showed that physical strength and athletic achievement is not the ultimate glory for a young man. No, the real strength that matters is character. And when a young man with character gets his glorious gray hair, everyone will know it is a crown of honor and splendor (Prov. 16:31).
Integrity is what will enable us to be the kind of husbands and fathers our families need.