I have the privilege of ministering to and with people of all ages and have come to really enjoy and respect older people. We often hear young people are our future! But older people are our future too, because if we don’t glean as much as we can from them before they leave to receive their reward from our heavenly Father, we won’t have a future!
Older people come with attitude, experience, stories, grace, wisdom, understanding, and a great deal of love. I mentioned attitude first because yes, older people (and I’m talking about seven, eight, or nine decades of life) can have ‘tudes” just like younger people have attitudes, just like EVERYONE has “an attitude” at times! Somehow, it’s getting easier for me to overlook older people’s attitudes, or at least work through my own attitude with them faster (Maybe because I’m getting older)?
I figure there is usually a good reason for their attitude. Just listen to older people share and you can hear the frustration they experience when their bodies don’t do what their minds say they can do; when something that used to take five minutes now takes thirty-five minutes to do; when they can’t sleep or they sleep all the time; or when their body doesn’t “come back” as it used to. The feeling of “losing control” can be overwhelming!
They appreciate help from younger people but at the same time it makes them feel feeble, weak, and needy. They watch what is happening in our society and don’t know what to say, while saying too much brings criticism of being old-fashioned, crotchety, and set in their ways. They are glad to be “heard” but feel no one listens anyway so why bother.
One of the struggles I hear most from older people is their inability to hear. Not only do they feel they are not heard, but they can’t physically hear as much or as well as they used to. With age, hearing loss is common and the ability to hear clearly and accurately diminishes. Hearing aids help but they certainly don’t perfect hearing.
Hearing loss causes people to miss out on what is said or, what they hear is distorted or muted which can lead to serious misunderstandings. There are times when physical hearing loss leads to making assumptions based on something that really wasn’t said or meant.
For example, an older member of our church preached one Sunday, and when he finished, I publicly thanked him for bringing us a word from the Word, sharing how privileged we are to receive wisdom from our elders. I was encouraging our older people to keep speaking out because it blesses the whole group, and we need them to speak into our lives even if it seems at times that younger people don’t listen or treat the older folks as though they don’t know anything. I said younger people might not think they need to hear what older people have to say but they do!
Two days later I was teaching a women’s bible study and a lady (four decades older than me) said her husband was a bit upset about what I said the previous Sunday. He “heard” me say older people don’t know anything and have nothing to say. Flabbergasted, I went directly into defensive mode, assuring this woman I did NOT say anything like that! She admitted she told him I didn’t say what he thought I said, BUT he insisted that’s what he heard me say. (Yes, that was a tongue twister)
This misunderstanding became the catalyst for seeking the Lord and writing about “hearing”. Physical and spiritual hearing loss is a major problem for everyone involved; for those who are dealing with hearing loss AND for those who either aren’t heard or are misinterpreted! Hearing loss affects everyone!
AND yes! Sometimes older people can be maddening, but then again, so can everyone, no matter the age! Older people are accused of being stubborn, stiff-necked, opinionated, set in their ways, and even mean but you know what? These qualities can be attributed to every person at some point or situation in life.
See, it isn’t really about age but about people with a variety of personalities and tendencies. The younger age group might be credited for being on the “cutting edge” of everything, might be acknowledged for being relevant and “with it” but we forget or pass over the reality none of us would be where we are were it not for older people cutting a path and living on the edge themselves.
No one EVER needs to get off the edge of what God is doing because it’s not dependent on age or ability to be relevant.
In the church we need to stop falling into society’s trap of stereotyping people by age and then separating them, meeting each age group where they are at by focusing on their needs. We ARE the church; we exist to focus on Jesus and serve one another! Then all our needs are met and God can use us to reach a nation!
If different age groups are so engrossed with themselves they become oblivious to others or just don’t care. I dream and believe for a Church where age and relevancy doesn’t determine how or why we “do” church but the Spirit of God and His truth moves us to “be” the church as we love and serve together so the world would know Jesus!
Philippians 2:3-4“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”