The Third and Fourth Generation

Exodus 20: 4-6 reminds us that either God’s curse or God’s blessing comes upon succeeding generations. Yet many say that two generations in one home will not work., or we are told that a church must have a “generationally targeted audience,” in its plan. There are those who miss many blessings by this kind of thinking.

Grown children can get “bent out of shape” with what they look at as interference by older family members and impatient with stories told for the umpteenth time. There are older people who look at the younger generations as irresponsible and very “green” in their understanding.  Then there are kids who look at their parents and grandparents as outdated and ignorant of the world as they see it.

The truth is that we can all learn from one another.  Each generation has something valuable to offer and we miss a great deal and possibly slow down our own maturing process by avoiding the other.

The Golden Agers have been through a great deal.  They have made many mistakes, suffered many circumstances and learned from many of their mistakes.  They know the pain that can result from an unwise decision.  It is only natural that they would want to try to protect a younger generation from having to deal with that kind of pain.  The wisdom offered has been hard earned.  Some of the advice might not be best for a particular situation but younger generations should listen and consider with an open heart and appreciate the love that the advice was wrapped in.

The older generation has many stories to tell as well.  It is interesting and fun to see how life was at one time.  We tend to get impatient though, when the same story is told for the hundredth time.  We sometimes make an unconscious judgment about their mental capabilities.  If truth were told, every story that we hear can bring new understanding.  There is something new that can be learned with each hearing and new insight into the teller.  A story  told many times is  apparently important to the teller.  We should ask why.

The Middle Agers can also offer much wisdom and guidance to the younger generation and sometimes to the older generation as well. They are contemporary, embracing new ways and progress.  They have higher energy and can encourage more activity and movement and less “resting on the laurels”.  They also can keep an older mind more active by sharing new ways of doing things.  Remember, the brain is a muscle!…use it or lose it!  The older generation can easily get into ruts.  The old and familiar is much easier, and the tendency to become overly scheduled can squelch spontaneity.

Children also can teach much.  They have much enthusiasm for even simple things.  They can get very excited over a butterfly or a simple bug.  Their thinking has not become tainted by the hardships of life.  They also have a tendency to call a spade a spade.  Diplomacy is a word they haven’t heard yet and they can make a statement that is so profound in its directness. Because their perspective has not become clouded by life yet they can cut to the heart of the matter.  Let me illustrate this with the following story.

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live.  They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.  On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?" "It was great, Dad." "Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked. "Oh yeah," said the son.  "So, tell me what you learned from this trip?" asked the father. The son answered: "I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.  We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.  Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them." The boy's father was speechless. Then his son added, "Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are."

Each generation’s perspective is different, but all are priceless. Homes, churches, friendships etc. all can be richer and fuller if we incorporate them all.   May God help us to have more open and listening hearts to all we come in contact with…no matter what their age is.  May we spend less time trying to convince others of our perspective and be open to seeing if ours should change.