As a massive fan of the previous Metal Gear games, I was giddy with anticipation of the reveal of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the return of the hero of the saga, the one and only Solid Snake. I endured the bait and switch MGS2 pulled, sticking me with playing as the whiny boy-soldier Raiden for the majority of the game. That was followed by the excellent MGS3 which moved into the past and explored the story of Snake’s “father”, but what I really wanted was to don that infamous mullet and bandana one more time and catch up on the adventures of the star of the show, Solid Snake himself. And now it was finally time, as I stood in front of the Konami booth at E3 awaiting the reveal of MGS4 and the return of the man, the myth, the legend… Snake.
And what I saw made my jaw drop, but not for the reasons you might think. Yes, the graphics were cutting edge, and the gameplay looked liquid smooth, but… Snake was OLD. Like, waaaaay old. His epic jet black mullet was now completely silver, his youthful scruff had been replaced with the type of large gray moustache usually reserved for Sam Elliot characters in westerns, and while this was still a soldier who was not to be trifled with, his spry and acrobatic movement had been replaced with a slower, more deliberate pace reflective of the grizzled old war veteran on the giant screen before me. This was not the Solid Snake I knew. And he was certainly not the one I wanted, the one I was looking forward to living vicariously through on yet another world-saving mission. To be honest, I was hoping it was yet another bizarre stunt by series creator Hideo Kojima, and that it would be revealed as a joke, or maybe just an alternate future. But that was not the case, and when MGS4 finally launched it was the story of an aged, battle-scarred, worn out Old Snake on his final mission. Not what I had in mind at all.
As I sifted through the display cases of the games on the wall at my local gaming store I realized something. Your mileage may vary on this, but for me it is quite clear that none of the people on any of these game cases look like me. Or probably you for that matter. Most of them are impeccably built, vibrantly young, chiseled from granite, with movie star looks and a wardrobe to match. And that’s probably a good thing, because you really don’t want to spend 10-20 hours staring at my virtual avatar running and jumping through game worlds, I promise you that. But as I pondered my resistance to the idea of one of my gaming characters looking “too old” to save the world, I realized that in many ways that was a reflection of how I felt about myself, and my continued usefulness for God in this world.
Have you ever had similar thoughts? Wrestled with the idea that you are too old, too broken down, too limited, or maybe have made too many mistakes to fulfill your destiny for the Lord? Regretfully, I have had many internal dialogues about how I have been all of these things at one point or another, but the age issue may be the one that gets me down the most because there is simply nothing I can do about it. So if you share my disappointment with the aging process and have worried that your best days are already in the rear view mirror I have some hope for you in the form of some aged heroes of the faith… Senior citizens who literally had their entire destiny still laying out in front of them.
ABRAHAM: Began his life journey at age 75
Most of us are familiar with the story of good ol Father Abraham. What may have escaped your notice is that his story didn’t even BEGIN until the ripe old age of 75, at which point he started out on a lengthy and physically demanding pilgrimage, went to war against the combined armies of four kings with just his personal staff of trained warriors and WON, and at 99 finally had the child God had promised him in Isaac. And he was still not done. After his wife Sarah’s death, he went on to remarry and have six more children at the youthful age of 140! Definitely meets the prototype of a late bloomer if you ask me. But I know what you might be thinking… People lived a lot longer back then so it stands to reason that they would accomplish more after 100 years of life. Fair enough. Let it never be said that I would not respond to the hypothetical questions of an audience that only exists in my mind. Let’s take on our next candidate.
MOSES: Started his mission of freedom when he was old enough for the senior special at Denny’s
Now we will need to do a little math on this one, so please bear with me as we reverse engineer Moses’s life. Moses dies at the age of 120, and he spent the 40 years prior to that wandering the wilderness with the Israeli nation due to their sins. That would mean that he was EIGHTY years old when the wilderness journey began, and the events of the Egyptian plagues and the majority of the book of Exodus would have taken place in his SEVENTIES. That’s right, most of the story of Moses happened when he looked less like Christian Bale and more like Dick Van Dyke. And while his age reached past what we find to be the normal length of our current mortality rate, it is clear that all of Moses’s major contributions to history took place in the final third of his life. That makes him a poster child for the “Not too late, never too late” movement. But I have one more for you… a grizzled war veteran that would make Solid Snake himself proud. The brother-in-arms of the original Joshua (yes, from the battle of Jericho), the ageless warrior Caleb.
CALEB: The original super-spy/ageless soldier who took on a mountain of giants at 85
Let’s check Caleb’s credentials for entry into our exclusive club. At age 40 Caleb was one of the original spies that Moses sent out into the land of Canaan after the people of Israel had escaped Egypt through the Red Sea and were on the beginning of their voyage to the Promised Land. Caleb, Joshua, and a select group of men from each of the twelve tribes spied out the land for 40 days, performing surveillance on each of the nations within the land they were destined to possess. They notated the size and strength of the armies they would oppose, the level of fortification present for the key cities, and found that in addition to the already large number of well established militia they would be engaging with there were also GIANTS… men who towered over each of them in size and strength and would present strong opposition. Caleb and Joshua were undeterred, with Caleb’s confidence underscored clearly in Numbers 13:30 when he challenges his comrades “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” Not a touch of fear in this soldier… he is ready to get right to it without delay.
Unfortunately, with the exceptions of Joshua and Caleb the remaining spies convinced the entire nation that the battles ahead were too hard, the giants too tall, and their army inadequate to continue in spite of the promises of God to protect them and provide victory. Thus began the 40 year wilderness sojourn we discussed earlier, with only Joshua and Caleb selected by God to survive the wandering because they had remained faithful to His vision. Fast-forwarding 40 years ahead to the point where they are now the only remaining living adults from their first foray into Canaan as spies, in Joshua 14 the Israeli people have finally entered into the land and defeated all those who have opposed them in their conquest. Five years of war has yielded victory after victory for Joshua and the Israeli war machine, and it is now time to begin dividing out the land for settlement. But simply receiving a parcel of land to settle down in is not good enough for our man Caleb. Oh no… he has some unfinished business to attend to.
In Numbers 14 Caleb approaches Joshua with a request that you gotta love. It wasn’t good enough for him to take his plot of ground and call it a day… no, he specifically requested to be granted an area FULL of giants that had not yet been cleared. The home base that was literally named after the leader of these massive soldiers. With the confidence of a man who had observed first-hand the provision of a God who isn’t concerned about your personal limitations Caleb requests at age EIGHTY-FIVE to be given this mountain full of fortified cities and giant warriors as his final challenge. He had been waiting for 45 years to get a crack at the giants that had scared off his countrymen and now it was time to finish the fight. And Joshua, seeing that familiar fire in his friend’s eyes burning bright, granted his petition and Caleb marched off to put the exclamation point on his military career. Clearly age was not a factor for him.
I don’t know about you, but after reading through the way each of these men attacked the twilight years of their lives with the reckless abandon of a teenager I am encouraged to look past all of my failures, my physical limitations, and yes, even the effects of the aging process when considering what God has left for me to do. I may have underestimated “Old Snake”, because I am also guilty of underestimating what God is still able to do with me. With God, age truly is just a number, and not one that He allows to constrain Him one bit. I pray to be granted the heart of a Caleb, or Moses, or Abraham… men who were not defined by their past as a slave, a fallen prince turned murderer, or a nomad. They did not allow their vision to be limited to what they saw in the mirror or how many viable years they had left by normal standards. They followed the promises of God in spite of their fears or the seemingly illogical path laid before them, and they emerged as champions of the faith. We are each exactly the age God knew we would be when it was time to do what He created us to do. And if Old Snake can get his tired bones up to the task of taking on yet another walking nuclear battle tank, then surely the power of the living God will give me everything I need to accomplish His mission for me today.