Church and Home
FIRST GLIMPSE: The Tassel
“Friends, family, distinguished guests, faculty, and graduates…”
As I began my carefully prepared baccalaureate address, I couldn’t help but smile at the excited, eager faces across the front four rows of the auditorium. So much potential! And with graduation only a few days away, the members of the 2017 class hung on every word—all but one, that is.
As I shared the sermon over which I had prayed and agonized for months, a single graduate refused to meet my eyes. She didn’t seem defiant, but she kept her gaze resolutely downcast, and I could tell she was fidgeting in her chair. At first, I tried to capture her attention, with little success. Then I tried to ignore her, to focus on the other students giving me their rapt attention. Yet, as minutes ticked by with no eye contact and no apparent interest, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Was it something I said?”
It wasn’t until the ride home that I got my answer. As we pulled away from the church, my wife turned to my daughter and demanded, “Why didn’t you listen to your dad’s sermon?”
Glancing in the rearview mirror, I was surprised to see a shocked look cross my daughter’s face. “It was the tassel,” she protested. “The crazy thing came apart as we were walking down the aisle, and I was trying to put it back together before we walked out in front of everybody.” She paused. "It really was a good sermon, Dad. I was listening...I just wasn’t looking.”
After a moment of awkward silence, we all laughed—another goofy memory to recall over coffee in the coming years.
A few days later, as I watched Victoria and her classmates cross the stage into the next phase of their lives, I couldn’t help but ponder how easy it is to jump to conclusions about the younger generation(s), to criticize based on first (and often mistaken) impressions, to focus on perceived weaknesses, or to write off their Kingdom potential because of age or generational culture. What a mistake! With this in mind, I am adopting three simple guidelines for my relationships with the next generation:
Stop stereotyping. Every generation has its share of shortcomings and successes. The very things one generation perceives as a crippling weakness may prove eventually to be the greatest strength. It is a mistake to demand the next generation to mirror our own.
Give grace to grow…and fail. Previous generations scoffed at some of the greatest young inventors in history—until their inventions revolutionized society. The same is true in the Church. With time and God's grace, we can be confident the next generation will get it right.
Embrace generational discipleship. Rather than criticizing, concentrate on modeling real and growing faith for the next generation. And remember, they are listening...even when they aren’t looking.
About the Columnist: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.