Nothing makes my father’s heart happier than when my little boy lifts his arms up to me and says, “Carry me, daddy.” But recently I’ve discovered that while my father’s heart may love the experience of carrying my little boy up the stairs, my father’s knees do not!
When I complained to my wife about this new phenomenon, she replied, “Like it or not, you’re getting older.” My initial (internal) reaction to her proclamation was an indignant, “I do not like it!”
That reaction was a surprise to me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the reason for my strong reaction was not primarily about the functioning of my knees. Rather, I was reacting to the idea that I was, in fact, getting older. This, apparently, is what it is like to grow old in a youth-obsessed culture.
A Youth-Obsessed Culture
We want our faces, hairlines, skin, and bodies to look as young and healthful as possible.
We want to be able to be as active and vital as twenty-year-olds, long into middle age and beyond.
We want to our mindsets to be the cutting-edge freshness of youth.
I ask myself, though: is that healthy? The fact is that I am nearly forty, with nearly-forty joints, and nearly-forty life experience. Certainly, it is nice to be pretty, to feel vital and full of energy (with a high metabolism!); but youth and wisdom are not renowned companions, and perhaps that is worth considering.#Youth and #wisdom are not renowned companions. Click To Tweet
Youth and Wisdom
This is especially true because our churches are struggling to find their footing in a shifting culture. Older modes of church—modes that are building-centric, liturgy-heavy, and politically-entangled—are being increasingly rejected as the church works to embrace a new generation of Christians.
There’s a risk, though, that in our rush to make our churches palatable to the young, we might wind up devaluing, whether implicitly or openly, the value of age.
The challenge, then, as I grow older, is to not resist the process of aging, not to be ashamed of it, or embarrassed by it. After all, it is going to happen. You can kick against it, but, as my dad would say, you’ll just wind up with bloody toes. The challenge, for me, is to embrace it.
As I do so, however, I have to careful that I don’t wind up devaluing youth. In my embrace of aging, I shouldn’t spurn the value of beauty, vitality, and healthy knees.
Rather, I should recognize that while these are all good things, they are not the only good things there are. If I can let go of the advantages of youth, it may open me to receiving the advantages of age.
The principle advantage of age is, of course, wisdom.
If we live seriously in our youth, then we may arrive at middle age having been seasoned by decades of experience. That experience is irreplaceable in terms of its ability to help us to make good choices, minister effectively, and contribute to our families, churches, and communities.
Being wise means that I am far less likely not only to make poor decisions for myself, but also far more likely to be able to help those in need, counsel those in distress, and advise those with questions.I can contribute to the intergenerational character of the #church. Click To Tweet
A New Role in the Church
My days of staying up all night at a youth group lock in are (thank goodness!) behind me.
I am no longer close enough in age to be able to minister in a near-peer way to high school students. But, because I have walked through some of the more difficult seasons of life, I am ready to take on increasingly responsible roles in the church community.
I can help those same young people make the difficult transition into working life, or give them counsel to survive the turbulent first few years of marriage. Because my youthful passions have diminished, I can be relied upon to be sober-minded, taking increasing responsibility for the long-term stability of the church.
Most importantly, I can contribute to the intergenerational character of the church.
As I will argue in a subsequent post, churches with a healthy distribution of age and experience will be stronger than those without. Embracing my age will mean that I can fill the middle-aged role effectively for the good of my church and community.
God has a calling for forty-year-old Caleb, and while it will not encompass the full vigor and vitality it once did, it will not therefore be less the valuable. It may turn out to be even more so.
Also published on Medium.