Thursday, January 26, 2006

Diminished Value and Shuffleboard Syndrome

I've noticed that I cry about birth and death and then things closely related. The happiness in the face of the mother with her newborn brings tears to my eyes. The death of someone, almost anyone, mists me up. When I think about someone's death because of a lingering illness or risky surgery, my throat constricts. Have you sat somewhere that you could watch the responses of an elderly person to the verve and vigor of young people, a lifetime of moments etched into the wrinkles? While you consider this, I want us to think together about two issues of old age, both relating to a culture that has veered off course.

Number one I'll call "diminished value." The population does not respect the elderly as they should. I believe that every reason is wrong, because Scripture commands: "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man" (Leviticus 19:32). Among the explanations, however, are (1) Misplaced admiration of physical strength and youthful beauty, (2) Personal discomfort with old age foibles and fragility, (3) Lack of marketability in bulges, bunions, baldness, and bifocals, and (4) Prideful youth not put in its place. The pressure of these among others makes older people feel of little value to worthless, a bother. I recognize that certain carnal features of the elderly highlight these reasons, namely things like: complaining, constant retelling of old stories already memorized, moping over lost strength and stamina, and regular lectures repeated way too many times. We need to show the older folks more respect and give them responsibilities fitting of their station in life.

Number two I'll call "shuffleboard syndrome." The notion of retirement, not found in Scripture, has lead to a lack of involvement from the elderly that, coupled with increasing disrespect, has taken them way out of the equation in church and society. Older people start planning to do their own thing as a sort of repay for the years of shouldering burdens. Because of how people view the world today, they excuse a lack of involvement from the hoary heads. "These people deserve a break, not just today, but this year or even the next decade." Experience alone doesn't mean wisdom, but they have contributions and many times in the way of wise counsel for decision making. Their perspective, at least, is worth considering.

I guess at some point I won't be saying "they," so let's get it changed before we become the "they," and for their sake and ours, but mostly for the Lord.

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