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Generational divides and the wisdom of age

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WORLD Radio - Generational divides and the wisdom of age

What drives the divide between generations? What shapes our beliefs about old age? Kelsey and Jonathan explore today’s cultural attitude toward the elderly and what it means for our kids and students.


KELSEY REED: Hello, welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. At Concurrently, we approach the news through a discipleship perspective. We tackle the challenging topics in culture and current events as learners and fellow laborers with parents, educators, and mentors of kids and teens. We consider the whole person, promoting growth in knowledge, attitudes, and action in the world. I’m Kelsey Reed, and I’m here with Jonathan Boes. And we welcome you to the conversation. In fact, we’d love to hear from you. Please send in your questions or your comments by way of maybe voice recording or email to newscoach@wng.org.

JONATHAN BOES: Absolutely. We love being able to answer those questions, discuss those questions. And I say this all the time, but it’s true: When you send us questions and comments, that helps us see what’s actually on your mind, and helps us make these conversations more beneficial to you. So please, if there’s anything in the news that you would like us to kind of come and learn alongside you, as we have these conversations—send that our way. Newscoach@wng.org. Or, if it’s simpler, you can even leave us a comment on Facebook or Instagram. We see those as well.

So today’s topic is coming out of an opinion piece published on wng.org by Jennifer Patterson. This is called “Growing Old as a Calling.” We will link to it in the show notes. It’s a great opinion piece. She’s talking about our culture’s attitudes towards aging. And there have been all sorts of stories in the news about this—people, you know, trying to prevent growing old. We’ll talk about some of that, I’m sure, as we go on. But also attitudes towards those who have already aged—how do we, as a culture, treat the elderly, especially as technology is just booming, things like AI and VR and cryptocurrency? I mean, I’m 30, that stuff goes over my head. So how are we accommodating old age in our culture? Are we afraid of it? Are we respectful to those who have aged? You can almost think of this as a corollary to the episode we did later last year, where we talked about our cultural attitudes towards children. Now we’re turning our eyes to cultural attitudes toward old age, and how we should think about it as parents and mentors raising our kids in a world of growing technology and changing attitudes.

KELSEY: Hand in hand with this topic is also the topic of just the cult of youth that we notice in America in particular, and I mean, the United States of America in particular. But really, in so many westernized countries, we are looking at these things in their juxtaposition with one another, because those attitudes—they seem to be the same kind of core attitude. And I’m so glad you mentioned that episode that we did, discussing the decline of population, which comes from our attitude towards bearing and rearing children. And so all of these things seem to come from the same core place, our attitude towards what it means to just love another person. And that distills it down into a very simple thing, but we want to unpack that more. But just so that you can arc into this episode with us, we are going to be talking a lot of those ways that we see this self-centered focus on “me” alive and well in the culture. Actually, for me, some of the roots of this idea for an episode came back from in November. I watched—I think it was in November that I was watching Dolly Parton’s performance at a Dallas Cowboys football game. And Dolly Parton, she is just a great example of somebody who has worked hard to be ageless. And honestly, in her spirit, she has an indomitable spirit, and she really is so full of joy and youth and playfulness and a sense of humor. She’s self-deprecating. I don’t want you hearing me in any way throwing her under the bus.

JONATHAN: Let’s face it, it’s impossible not to love Dolly.

KELSEY: Oh my gosh, she is a lovely soul. And yet, at the same time, there’s something that I feel when I look at the fruit of her efforts to maintain a youthful exterior, that as a woman, maybe that is particularly irksome. It’s hard for me to digest. When I see something like that, I immediately want to do the work of slowing way down. And we talk about this often. This is a common current in our work at Concurrently, that we talk about slowing down so that we’re not merely reacting to something. And honestly, when I am dealing with the challenges of culture on the whole, the challenges of work, the challenges of family, that is an instinct of mine, for better or for worse. I think some people would probably be like, okay, snap out of it, take a risk, it’s okay. You can talk a little faster. Maybe people are even annoyed with my rate of speech. But I just, as the temperament that I am, if I am facing stress, or struggle, or challenge, I first rear up, but then I’m like, “Oh, slow down.”

January, for us at Concurrently, has been a lot of addressing of those themes of, how do we face this year with intention? How do we face the new technological advances with intention? And the theme that I continue to hear, as I listen back to our recordings, is that “How do we do our slow learning?” How do we get engaged with reflective intention? The educator’s term for that is “How do we build reflective capacity, so that we can engage slowly?” And it seems fitting to draw those themes out, as we talk about the differences between what we’re seeing in our just multiple generations that are on the scene right now. There are still so many generations living right now. And the way that we interface with the world, some of us are naturally going to be interfacing much more slowly, whereas technology has propelled many of the younger generation towards engaging it with a higher rate—I would say just more rapidly. So even as we launch into this discussion, I want to connect it to some of our intentional thinking, some of our intentional approach to the world in general.

Some of the other things that we do structure-wise, that we’ll kind of do lightly, is that we like to bring out the Big Five, if we do that more explicitly or more implicitly to our process. And so we touch on history. And one of the things that I have noticed in my years is, you know, this “rock-and-roll age” of youth and revolution. The just love that we have for young, vibrant, energetic risk-taking seems to be rooted so much in that rock-and-roll culture of the ’60s. So it’s not a new phenomenon, is the point that I’m trying to make. I see a history to this process of having a disregard and disrespect for the elderly, and really a lofting of, an elevation of youth in our culture.

JONATHAN: So I think a phrase that we’ve heard is the “cult of youth.”

KELSEY: And you can even find it—the thing that’s amazing is that that comes with a big body of literature already. We see the discussion—and we’re going to link a source—we see the discussion that is related to those things, Jonathan, you’ve already observed, that we seem to fear age. We want to be, maybe, viewed, highly respected, valued, and that for some reason—and again, maybe that’s rooted in the ’60s and the way that our rock-and-roll generation has made youth the most attractive thing—wrinkles aren’t attractive in this generation anymore. At least, not in a general sense.

JONATHAN: And I do think there’s a gendered quality to the cultural attitude that is unfair. And you know, it’s not necessarily universal, but I do think there’s a difference here between the way men are perceived and women are perceived, at least when I look out at like the scope of pop culture, right? I see a lot more movies and magazine covers of men rocking their wrinkles. You know, there’s something about, like, the “old grizzled cowboy” archetype, right? There’s still an ideal for men that can kind of include the natural markers of age. But it seems like often the images presented of women are more so, you know, trying to get rid of the wrinkles, trying to get rid of the gray hair. At least to me, speaking purely from my own observations, it seems like there are far fewer cultural archetypes presented that elevate the beauty of the marks of age in women, as opposed to men.

KELSEY: I am with you, and it’s interesting how, getting caught up in the externals, I immediately am starting to ask these questions. What is it about our heart’s posture that can affirm the externals of age in a masculine expression of those things, versus really the struggle and the resistance to those external signs of age in women? Why is there a disparity there? How is it speaking to our core, that we would be having that kind of reaction? What’s going on at the heart level? I’m always interested in driving back to, you know, so I’m looking in the mirror, is it merely my own response to myself aging? Or is there something about culture that has esteemed the youthfulness of the woman’s body so highly that any signs of age are just intolerable, and that we are hostile to that idea? Now, this episode is not intended to focus on the gender gap at all. I think that there is more to it than that. I think it is a human problem rather than a gendered problem.

JONATHAN: And it is happening with men. You know, we’re talking about this fear of aging, and wanting to erase the marks of age. There’s this incredible article from Time magazine written by Charlotte Alter. It’s called “The Man Who Thinks He Can Live Forever.” Just a warning, you might want to be careful if you’re reading this with kids or whatever. There are some things covered in this article about anatomy that, you know, you might not want younger kids to read. But for the grown-ups, maybe older teens, this is just an incredible interview with this man named Bryan Johnson. He’s 46 years old, or at least he was, rather, at the time of this writing. His goal is to basically be 18 forever and ultimately not die, which sounds ridiculous. But he spends millions of dollars a year on all these crazy treatments and pills and this regimen where—this could be its own whole episode, because he has basically given his life over to an algorithm that he believes, if he follows this algorithm, the things AI says he should do, that he can basically have organs and skin and everything else that is just like an 18 year old. That’s obviously the male side of it. He is trying to look 18. But it also brings out that there’s more than just the physical appearance, more than just like the skin, right? Part of it is also the fear of death. He wants to prevent death. He wants not just to prevent his skin from aging, but his internal organs. He wants to have the heart and intestines of an 18-year-old. And so he’s like monitoring all these little parts of his body to make sure like they are in a certain percentile range. He wants to eventually just stave off death. And this article gets into the fact that real doctors are extremely skeptical of this idea. But all that to say—well, there’s an important part of this I left out, which is that he’s trying to market this to other people as well. He turned his whole method into a brand called Blueprint, that he sells products and things like that. So he wants to invite other people into this. So this is the cult of youth really taken to its most absurd, extreme level, that we see both men and women trying to turn back the clock, reverse age, even when it means sacrificing the entirety of normal life.

KELSEY: That just—it sounds like slavery to me. And I think partly the reason it sounds like slavery to me is because—it’s only because my feet, by the Lord’s grace, are founded on His perspective. And we need to unpack that some more. But I think you have hit on something in this discussion. That is that central human issue here, which is that fear of death. I think that it obviously manifests in different ways, according to even just your temperament. But this cult of youth, this maybe “fear of age,” so much so that we even—we don’t even know how to relate to those who are elderly, to senior citizens in our nation. And, honestly, we can, in our society, create distance between us, so that we don’t have to face those signs of age that make us have to deal with our very core heart-level fears on this topic area. And that brings up another very interesting part of our cultural brokenness. So identifying the heart-level. Those who aren’t in Christ, we have a lot to fear about what is next. We would be highly motivated, I would guess, to try to avoid any signs of aging ourselves. Anything that makes us have to wrestle with that fear on a deep level. And our society—I’m repeating this—our society has created barriers, easy ways to avoid the discomfort of engaging with those who would make us wrestle with those deep, necessary questions. And I call them necessary. I think that the Lord has written these deep questions on our hearts, so that we would hunger for Him. And they are played out most effectively within relationships. So if we can avoid those relationships that might make us have to deal with those deep, deep questions, yeah, we’re already halfway there. And if we can surround ourselves, like this guy that you’re mentioning, with more people who are willing to serve the god of youthfulness in his cult—he is really, I think he’s creating a cult—if you have this cult following, everybody around you is thinking and feeling the same way. You’re insulated from having to wrestle deeply.

JONATHAN: I’m intrigued by that idea that we’re trying to erase the signs and reminders of death. Because when you place this in a larger cultural context, historical context, it goes directly against this classical idea of the memento mori. There’s this classical motif in art that goes back to the Greeks, and then comes up through Christianity, of the memento mori, which is the Latin phrase for “remember that you will die.” And it’s this idea that we should be putting intentional reminders before ourselves that we’re going to die. It makes us live with intention. That’s what we’ve been talking about, slowing down, living with intention. And part of the way we do that is to remember that we’re not going to be here forever. And that goes totally against the idea of “we have to erase all the wrinkles and try to eliminate any sign that we’re aging.”

KELSEY: “Teach us, O Lord, to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.” And the great opinion article mentions those wonderful wise words of Moses from Psalm 90.

JONATHAN: I would like to turn our attention towards—so we’re talking to mentors of kids and teens. I would imagine, over the last 100 years or so, just the gulf between the young and the old has grown in terms of the world they inhabit, right? Like, at the turn of the 1900s, there wasn’t television or internet, even telephones and photographs were new. And now, like 120-some years later, there’s AI and internet and social media. And the way the world has changed so rapidly compared to the world of the past—kids today who are like in their teens and younger are inhabiting a world that looks so much nothing like the world of people who grew up in the ’50s or before. And so what does that do, do you think, to the relationship—like, as we are trying to shepherd our kids towards their attitudes about old age and the elderly, what does that do to that process? Just knowing there’s a gulf of experience that exists between these generations?

KELSEY: Yeah, just when you start describing it, I just think of—in the absence of technology, where do we go to learn? We move into relationship with those who have more knowledge than us. And so there, I’m thinking of my husband’s mom again, that her experience of where she would go to learn and what she would do and the pattern of her behavior, even as an adult, is that she would go to visit her aging parents, grandparents—you know, that when she went to learn, she went to learn from somebody who was more experienced, more knowledgeable, wiser. And so there is this expectation that was ingrained in her that that was the pattern of human behavior, that she, you know, hungers to continue to have that relationship. But that pattern has been broken. We go to technology for our answers, for our “worldly wisdom.” I don’t want to call that wisdom, but that’s our resource for knowledge, for information. It’s quick, it’s immediate. You know, these are words that we have brought out in some of our conversations of late.

JONATHAN: And frankly, I mean, one of the reasons we go to it, aside from expediency, is it’s often more accurate. We’re trading off the relational for the accurate and immediate.

KELSEY: When we’re talking about maybe scholarly knowledge, because what you’re talking about is—well, we might be able to find peer reviewed sources, we have more crowd sourced knowledge. So I say true, but I also have some pushback. There’s a different type of knowledge that we can only receive through relationship. What does it look like to experience raising a family? This tracks it back to one of our key ingredients for today, that talking about “Why don’t we want to have kids anymore?” Why do Western societies not, you know, find that as fulfilling or valuable? Part of it is their models. They’re not as closely connected to their models, to those who would live out that experience in front of them. Now in the church, I think that we are still very different than that. We even heard that from Chiara, when she communicated about the Italian church. You know, the Italian church definitely is a countercultural force. It’s living differently than the culture around them that disdains the idea of being made uncomfortable by having children in your life. So the church is supplying that countercultural community, where we can see modeled for us the joys amidst sorrows, the fullness of the human life, just lived out in front of them.

JONATHAN: That’s the reason why I’ve always appreciated going to churches where, when they have some sort of small group during the week, that it’s not divided by age—and, you know, no knock on your church if you do this. But I know in some churches, their groups like, the young people and the old people and the parents kind of all segregated out. But there’s so much to gain when, in a church community, those groups can intermingle and share wisdom, that experiential knowledge.

I think another aspect of knowledge that gets lost when we turn to technology, as opposed to real people with age, especially is local knowledge, knowledge of your place and people. There are things that your elderly neighbor knows about your community that you won’t be able to Google, and that even if you could Google—you might be able to Google and find out that there was an ice cream shop down the street where the gas station is now. But you can’t Google “What did it smell like?” You can’t Google “How did it feel to go there after school and get an ice cream?” Those things only exist in people. Unless they preserve it in their writings or something like that, you’re only going to get it through conversations. And to me, it ties back to this guy trying to trying to live forever. He’s stripped out all flavor from his experience, all sense of beauty and goodness and taste for just getting to the nutrients that will keep him alive. And we do something similar with knowledge, when we just turn to technology. It’s like, okay, I’ll just get the facts and the bare bones history. But you’re going to lose all the flavor, the senses, the fullness of the experience. You know, God invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” And I would argue that there is a connection to be drawn there with even the way we experience His creation. We taste and see the goodness of creation. We don’t just download it into our brains. And that tasting and seeing the goodness of creation around you, and community, and beauty—that’s something we can only get through the relationships with the people who have been there. And I think maybe one of the ways we can start to break down that barrier between our children and the older people around us is to show them that value, that in the same way your kids would rather eat a delicious meal than take nutrient pills, they would rather talk to somebody who lived through the 1950s than read a Wikipedia entry on the 1950s.

KELSEY: So we’re tackling a question that I’m going to actually explicitly read out, because I think it’s helpful as a part of our process at home, where we are in those in-person places, where we’re basically answering, how can we shift our thinking about aging? How can we rejoice in the fun of, but stop glorifying, youth? And the answer that we’re drawing out through this conversation is that it’s very experiential and relational in nature. And these are arguments that you will see laced throughout the things that I write at our blog. You know, everything that we see, in terms of its deepest work, it’s done in conversation. It’s done in relationship. I’s done experientially, which means that the whole person is involved in it. So what you’re talking about, the difference between just having thoughts downloaded into our brain, or the pragmatic interfacing with the world—this is wholly and starkly different than those things. And it comes with just, again, the pain of relationship. You know, we can’t control relationship like we seem to think that we can control whether or not we age or control technology. This comes with the mystery, that, again, is written precisely that we would be pushed back into that relationship that is most important in our lives, that relationship with the Father, who has made all these beautiful, glorious things to experience, to taste and see. So I love where you’re going there, and how that helps us to answer this good question. And we have also been asking these other questions. We’ve started introducing the idea of how can we disciple even our youngest children well in this area? But we’ve also been approaching, how can we repair the intergenerational breaches that we see? And I want to camp out in that question a little bit more, and intentionally. So how do we repair? How do we do repair work between generations instead of siloing, like you were talking about at church?

JONATHAN: That’s such a huge question. And I think that’s one of those questions that’s good, in part, to leave with our listeners to search their own hearts. But I was actually thinking about this earlier today. And one of my thoughts was, I think it really has to be a two-way street. And it can also involve those of us in the middle.

So we’re talking about younger people and older people. Both you and I exist kind of in that middle somewhere. Like, I’m not a kid anymore. I’m not an old person, but I have children. And I have parents, and I still have a surviving grandparent. And I can, in a way, facilitate those connections better than they can facilitate them face to face. But also, I think it needs to be a two-way street, where—I think we’ll spend a lot of time talking about the ways that younger people need to accommodate the older people, which is huge, and is probably most of it, in my opinion. But I think also, there can be—I want to be careful how I say this, because sometimes there’s reasons that this can’t happen. But there can be a fatalistic sort of acceptance among older people that they will just never understand the new or the young. And I do think that there is a responsibility for everyone, regardless of generation, to make an effort to connect. And I think it can be a problem when older people look at new technology, or the ways younger people communicate, and just assume, “Well, I’m older; I’m never going to get that.” And, you know, there can be circumstances, for sure, where maybe that’s not going to happen. But you know, when older people make an effort to relationally connect, and there is that reciprocal effort by the younger, there can be a lot more meaningful connection than might be assumed. Like, the ways I’ve seen grandparents who really love their young grandchildren and great grandchildren figure out technology that other people their age would be totally baffled by, motivated by that love and desire to connect—it’s really something. And so I don’t say that as a condemnation, by any means, but more of an encouragement, that there can be that both sides reaching towards each other. It shouldn’t just all be the youth trying to reach out to the old or all just the old trying to reach out to the youth. But I think both sides can work to accommodate one another. Younger people might not need as much technology as they think they do. And older people I don’t think are often as inept with technology as they might just assume they are because it looks hard.

KELSEY: I absolutely agree. I think that there’s this false sense that the older generation kind of has of themselves, at times, that they have become irrelevant in the age of technology, that they have nothing to say to it, that they have nothing that they can do with it, that it’s just too hard. And I’m speaking from experience. This is not merely a generalization. There is a very specific experience that I have of my mother-in-law, who will never listen to this podcast, because she has shut down her willingness to take a risk and try to learn something new. And it breaks my heart, because she lives alone and could use those voices coming to her and stimulating her brain and causing her to hear of the needs of the younger generation that she can still step into very relevantly.

There’s a podcast I follow that’s called “Being Known Podcast.” Curt Thompson and his co-host Pepper, they are phenomenal in that they partner their understanding of culture and relationship with the neuroscience. So they’re doing very great integrated work. And our brains, they are characterized by neuroplasticity. We can heal our brains. We can learn. We have to maybe go through a challenging process, just like if you were learning math for the first time. That’s a challenge. It takes time to build those neural synapses in the first place. And our brain can atrophy. And yet, there’s a hope that it doesn’t have to be—that’s not the end. There’s hope that we can restore, if we’re willing to do the work. And so I appreciate what you’re saying, that the work needs to be us in the middle as facilitators, but not just us. It’s not merely our responsibility. There are other adults in the picture. It is so vital that the older generation recognize their profound impact on us and on our children. Grandparents, you are so vital to the process of the rising generation. You connect them to the faithfulness of the Lord in the past. You can look at what has happened and you can see that the sky didn’t fall. There seems to be so many threats that are looming. And yet you have seen that the Lord sustains and keeps you, and we need to hear that. Our children need to hear that. And youth, you have the energy. If any of you teens and students are listening in, you have the energy to pursue, to initiate, to get your voice on the phone with your grandparent. They love to hear your voices. It recharges them. It gives them energy. You lend something to them. You refresh them. I’m going to insert this quote in here. It’s a little bit weird. It doesn’t flow very well from what I’m saying. But to step outside and say, you know, where we are, culturally speaking, is we have thought that the way to connect with youth is to let their voices loom larger. Carl Trueman says in his book The Rise and Fall of the Modern Self: “We have, in recent years, been treated to children and teenagers lecturing the older generation on everything from healthcare to the environment to matters such as Brexit and Donald Trump.” Pithy statement to juxtapose what we’re describing, when we say a faithful interaction between generations is actually intergenerational. Not diminishing the one, not elevating the other, not silencing the one in order to only hear the current wisdom.

JONATHAN: Yeah, that balance. Because we see that balance in scripture—scripture talks all about the wisdom of old age. It also, you know, has the “Don’t let them write you off because you’re young,” that sort of thought so. Yeah, it’s that mutual respect. There’s a respect at the heart of it, and a recognition that we have so much to learn from one another. And that’s something that so frustrates me when, like—for some reason, it’s always Boomers and Millennials. I don’t know why those are the two groups that are always at war on the internet, especially since Millennials, we’re in our 30s now and whatever. But you know, when there’s all this generational clashing on the internet, like, “Oh, Boomers just don’t understand,” or “Oh, Millennials are just lazy”—man, we lose so much. Instead, like, what can we learn from each other? Where are our weak spots that can be filled by the knowledge of another generation?

KELSEY: I’m reminded of that quote from Amy. I’m going to be quoting this all the time, about reading the old authors so you can see the brokenness of the past and also see the wisdom of the past, and that we obviously read the new authors, or the new ones’ wisdom or knowledge through that lens, and it can help us better see our brokenness. Well, relationally is the best place for that to work itself out. By God’s grace, covered in His grace, equipped by His grace.

I had one other thing that I wanted to say about that listening. It reminded me, when you were talking about listening to the older generation, that a part of how we heal the brain is actually by telling our stories. So when we listen to the stories of the older generation, we’re actually allowing them to stave off some of those just horribly, just grievous illnesses of the brain that include dementia, like we’ve talked about. When we tell a story, we heal the brain. When we listen, we’re allowing for somebody else’s healing to occur.

JONATHAN: If I can change gears a little bit, another underlying factor to recognize here, I think—and something else that maybe can help us as we are trying to kind of repair the gap between generations—is to recognize our culture’s obsession with utility and the pragmatic and what creates monetary value. So we’ve been talking about our attitudes towards children and our attitudes towards the elderly. You know, we brought out in our episode with Jenny and Chiara about how, so often, there’s this lack of value for young children. Like, people are frustrated at the presence of toddlers and infants. And now we’re talking about how there can so often be a lack of value for the elderly. And one of the things that ties these two together is, in a culture that is driven by the dollar and driven by “What utility do you provide to society,” people who struggle to take care of themselves—like young children, or the very old—get shoved off to the sides. That temptation to only value what can bring me immediate benefit, especially monetary benefit—that’s a whole, not just a cultural attitude, but a heart attitude that we can recognize in ourselves and probably, you know, in our children, and work against, and instead teach the value of things besides just the useful and pragmatic, look to value things for what they are, not just because of what they can do for us, right? Because even in our discussion, I think we could fall into the danger of “I should relate to the elderly because they can give me wisdom I don’t have, or just because of the things I’ll get.” And that’s not it at all. There’s so much more than just what’s useful when we’re talking about what’s truly valuable. So this all ties back into a larger picture, of teaching our kids, and ourselves even, to value the things that God values—the things that aren’t good because they are useful, but are good because they’re good. I love the term “intrinsic goods,” things that are good, just because they are good. And in our day and age, we’re so often trying to figure out like, well, why is this good? There has to be like a reason it’s useful for me, or yada yada. Some things are good because they’re good, because they are the good, the true, and the beautiful. And if we lose the idea that some things are just good, we are going to lose the value of things that don’t give us immediate use.

KELSEY: I appreciate that point. It’s amazing that when we stop to taste the good, that it also exponentially unpacks. So these things that we might turn to because we’re like, “Oh, they’re useful”—those things actually can come out of merely stopping and recognizing the good of the other person. And then all that other stuff unpacked from there— the brain that heals because of getting to tell the stories, the wisdom that’s imparted, like, that is a part of the exponential increase of human flourishing that comes from, first of all, stopping and tasting to see that the Lord is good, and that everything that He has said is good, is good. His image-bearers, they have intrinsic value. I go and I bear the image of God to you. You experience the image of God from me. We behold Him, we behold His goodness. That’s where it starts. So I love that, and I appreciate that. And when we think about what it means to train up our children, a part of the way that we teach them the value of the other image-bearers, so that we would see it across all the generations, is if we also look into their eyes, maybe get down on our knees, and show them— I’m sorry, my children are so beautiful. How do I look at them in the face and show them that I am beholding their goodness, and experiencing and enjoying them as a way of showing that the Father delights in them? That modeling, that experiencing and enjoying, that also, when they experience it, they bring it into their next relationship as well.

JONATHAN: And before we end, you know, we often like to bring this to a place of practical response. One idea I have—and you know, this is something I just thought of in preparation for this, and realized I’m not really doing it with my own kids. So I think I’m going to try to start doing this more. One of the things that really shapes our attitudes is the stories, the media, the music, whatever we consume. And so I’m thinking about movies, books, things like that, that feature older characters—not just like the Uncle Ben in Spider-Man, who kind of exists to get the younger hero on his journey. But—I love Uncle Ben—but stories that actually focus on older people as humans, as full people who are their own characters and exist and have value. One of the best examples that popped into my brain right now is the movie Up from Pixar. The main character is an older man, Carl, and this whole movie is actually about him having to relate to the younger generation, because he gets stuck in this absurd situation with this young kid who’s like a Boy Scout. That’s an incredible movie. You think about today’s marketing executives in Hollywood—who’s going to make a movie for children starring an old man? But they did. And it’s incredible. And it’s fun, and it makes you cry in the first 10 minutes, if you’ve never seen it. It’s really something. But—so how can we pursue stories and things like that, that just experientially start teaching our kids the value of the elderly, that these are real people with real experiences and real value, intrinsic value? Up is a great movie for that. If anybody listening to this has other ideas, I would absolutely love to hear them.

KELSEY: I’m so thankful that you returned us to story, another one of our connections for January. And so yes, narrative shapes us. And I absolutely adore that film. And it epitomizes what you’re saying about a relationship that kind of started with the pragmatic, and then it blossoms into so much more. So I’m glad that you brought that up.

Well, listeners, as Jonathan said, we love to hear from you. We want to hear the ways that you help your kids and students examine and keep in check the consistent messaging on age and youth in culture that bombards us all. What stories are you listening to? What activities do you engage in? What practices do you have in place to give your children exposure to older generations, both to care for them, to listen to their wisdom, to delight in them, and to bear the Lord’s image to them, and remind them that they are delighted in? And if you are an older generation, how are you doing the same for the youngers? How do you bear the Lord’s image to them?

Scripture for today: “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” Proverbs 20:29.

JONATHAN: From Psalm 90: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty . . . Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

KELSEY: From 1 Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” His grace has equipped us for the work.

 


 

Show Notes

What drives the divide between generations? What shapes our beliefs about old age? Kelsey and Jonathan explore today’s cultural attitude toward the elderly and what it means for our kids and students.

Check out The Concurrently Companion for this week’s downloadable episode guide including discussion questions and scripture for further study. Sign up for the News Coach Newsletter at gwnews.com/newsletters.

We would love to hear from you. You can send us a message at newscoach@wng.org. What current events or cultural issues are you wrestling through with your kids and teens? Let us know. We want to work through it with you.

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Concurrently is produced by God’s WORLD News. We provide current events materials for kids and teens that show how God is working in the world. To learn more about God’s WORLD News and browse sample magazines, visit gwnews.com.


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