Monday, November 01, 2010
As a culture, we are fascinated by youth and terrified of age. Visiting a nursing home for the abandoned elderly gives both justification to this fear and the observation that it is ours.There is something deep and disturbing in how we age these days. This is but a single issue - that is to say what happens tot he church when it ignores the wisdom of age. Corollary to that is the narcissism of "warehousing" the aged in institutions becasue we simply cannot bear the burden of caring for them. Then there is the issue of wanting our kids to like us, so we try to act "young" and be our kids friends instead of parents. I could go on.
Right from its inception the community of Christ was intended to be multi-generational. Those who have walked similar paths to our own, both the living and the dead through their writings, are available to be heard. In honest listening there is much salvation from grief.
Do we seek a body of Christ segregated by age? When we enter a church service and see it dominated by the aged (and there are many) do we imagine we may have discovered a wealth of unhurried, untapped wisdom? Do we imagine only new books have something to offer? In most cases learning from previous generations requires some effort of cultural translation. Do we see the value in breaking out of the prison of age segregation?
There are two huge underlying issues that I see here. The first is an attempt to change the natural order of things. It is natural to age. It is natural for children to reject to some level their parents. (They have to to move out on their own.) It is natural that aging brings with it some infirmity and that the aged need care.
When we reject the natural order of things, we cannot be content. It's like a gear trying to be a wheel - it just doesn't work right becasue it is not acting in accordance with what it was built to do.
And we do so out of total self-absorption. We want our kids not to reject us. We want not to be bothered with the parents we rejected at some point. We want what we conceive is a perfect life.
But here is the thing - we are sinners and our conception of the perfect life is grossly skewed. We see ourselves as wheels when we are gears.
But the amazing thing is this - those old people we ignore - they have this all figured out. All we need to do is take a minute and listen.