A principle expressed in many ways throughout the Bible is the importance of having and showing respect for your elders. Over the past few decades this principle of Christianity and of our society (itself originally based on Judeo-Christian ethics) has taken a serious hit, and it does not seem aimed for improvement any time soon.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not going to be a rant about “old people” or anything like that. I love older people (I hope to be one someday), and many of my friends are card-carrying AARP members. I have an extremely deep appreciation for people who have raised their kids, and are blessing their grand-kids with honorable examples of what it means to be godly men and women, husbands and wives, and functioning members of our society. Of the Bible classes I’ve taught and enjoyed the most, high up on the list would be the ladies’ class in Bonham which was made up of women that were mostly retired. I treasure the visits I made there to our retired members in their homes, where often I was the one being taught about faith and God as they’d share some tidbit they’d learned from their walk with Christ and from their Bible reading that morning. Our seasoned citizens are in many ways our greatest treasure, so it should be that young(er) people should respect their elders by default. However, be aware that respect, like trust, is more easily lost than gained. Treasure it when it is found, and live so as to hold onto it. (I learned that from my elders, by the way.)
Today is Christmas eve, and unlike many men I’ve had my shopping done for week (which is probably a first, truth be told). Because of that, I thought I’d be able to avoid the mad rush at the mall and the grocery store. Not so. Tanya informed me this morning that if I wanted to use the $10 coupon I had on a pair pants, I’d better get moving because it expires today. So, not wanting to pay an extra $10 next week, I decided to brave the rush. It wasn’t that bad, really, probably the least mess of my week in fact. I, being a man, found the pants I wanted in five minutes. Then Emma, being a girl, made me spend another 30 minutes (no exaggeration) waiting for her and Tanya to brave the ladies’ room line. Ugh. Anywho, it still wasn’t that bad. I even got a decent parking spot.Next, we had to go to the store to get groceries for a gathering tomorrow (Tanya got a last minute request for her dressing). That wasn’t so bad either, so I was actually kind of enjoying a day I’d have thought would be as fun as punching a Q-Tip through my head. (At this point you think I’m rambling and forgotten my topic…not so…stick with me here.) As we left the PriceChopper parking lot, we got stuck. A lady in a Camry decided to pull in on the wrong side of the road. This caused a small backup, and pedestrians couldn’t figure out what to do because they thought she was going to take off any second. Instead, she just got out of her car and declared that lane her parking spot. A horn sounded and this lady, probably 60 or so, did what was not in the child-like spirit of Christmas, but rather in the childish spirit of a two-year-old’s tantrum. She contorted her face and stuck her tongue out at the passersby and went into the store. (Emma’s commentary was simply, “Not nice.”)
And another story…I’ve a pet peeve. It’s finding dog poop in my yard when I don’t own a dog. I find the idea that a person would think it acceptable to leave dung on another person’s property barbaric. Think about it. Would you like me to leave our upcoming baby’s diapers on your porch or on your couch? Of course not! Difference? NONE. Now, the other day I finally spoke to the guy whose been doing this. He carries a bag some days for show, but he never uses it. I honestly think he’s been carrying the same bag for two years. Two years is patience enough, especially in a town where this is illegal. When I told him he’d have to pick it up, and to please not leave it again, he did the unexpected. He threw a two-year-old tantrum. I’m not kidding…he danced, he grimaced, he shimmied and yelled like a kid on the toy aisle at Wal-Mart. He, too, was in his 60’s acting less than 6.
What I’m getting at is this: being older is no guarantee of being wiser. God has given you more opportunities for growth and more lessons to learn, but the fact you’ve managed to breath longer than others doesn’t mean you’ve actually taken God up on the offers. Respect from those of us who are younger should be expected, that’s what God has said. But, it is also yours to loose when your life and actions show you’ve rejected the lessons of your own life and experience, and have opted instead to revisit the terrible twos, and in those moments, lose it you will. Tantrums can be funny when one is two (I know they can also be exasperating, but we dealt with Emma’s tantrum stage by trying to see the humor and silliness in what she was doing). When you throw them at 65 it’s not cute, it’s pathetic. It’s also especially devastating to young children, who seem to innately know that adults aren’t supposed to act that way, and it sometimes leaves indelible (bad) impressions on them that change how they do or don’t respect their elders. Been there, seen that.
And so, I’ll go to God in prayer now and do three things. I’ll first pray that these two souls come to a place of peace, since there’s probably something behind the scenes eating at their craw to make them act that way. I hope tomorrow’s a better day for them both. I know the snapshot I’ve seen of them can’t possibly be all there is in them, and I’ve a policy about never relying on a first impression, so I’ll pray there is a second, and that it’s a better one. I know I’ve had days I probably wanted to do the same things….maybe I have and just have blocked it from memory. None of us wants to be judged by a single moment of weakness.
Second, I’ll thank God for those who are showing us how to live long lives with grace and dignity and faith, gaining wisdom over bitterness and charity over selfishness. I’d love to launch into a list of folks here, I think they deserve the honor, but I’m afraid I’d forget someone. The Lord knows, and he’ll reward them better than I.
Third, I’ll earnestly ask the Lord to help me. I want to grow wiser and not just older, and I want to do so following the examples of those I’ve admired. And boy, do I think the Lord’s got His work cut out for Him on that one!