Occasionally, the school where I teach a weekly Bible class will ask me to sub for the entire day. One day when I was assigned to teach for the entire day, a delightful but rambunctious boy, who had typical behavioral issues in the past, came up to me and promised he was not going to cause me any problems at all today. I believe he meant it with all his little heart, but before noon we were already making a trip to the principal’s office. The boy was in tears. His promise earlier that day was so sincere but how soon it was broken! The cause of his tears was not the trip to the office, but of a broken promise he made. He cried tears of shame, thinking because I was a teacher and he was a young boy that I would have no idea how he felt. But I did! I had to let him know I knew exactly how he felt. I know too well what its like to tell God how good I am going to be, only to let Him down by noon. The boy was surprised to learn I have cried the same tears he has. By sharing his common ground I was able to mentor him and share how I have accepted Jesus’ forgiveness and trusted in His promises to be a little less rambunctious.
Several years ago, a teenage girl who had several tragedies in her life, started visiting our church with her parents. She was still trying to figure out who God was and who she was. Other kids started making fun of her blue hair and strange wardrobe, so she declared she was not coming back to this church! She went to the atrium, where she sat on a bench. Soon an elderly traditional and conservative elder came and sat beside her. Now you wouldn’t think an old man in a traditionally stuffy suit would have a chance to reach the heart of a teenage girl with blue hair, now would you? But this old man was from Vietnam and came to the United States as a teenage boy. He too was made fun of because of his cultural differences and even because of his religion. He explained to this young girl that he did not let people making fun of him stop him from coming to church, and told her not to let people making fun of her stop her either. So on that bench you had an elderly Vietnamese man in a stuffy grey suit, sitting next to an American teenage girl with blue hair as they talked about all the things they had in common. It was at the elderly man’s funeral that the mother of this young girl shared with me the difference he made in her life.
In Luke 1:39-45 Mary, a young teenage girl is getting ready to have a baby, as promised by the angel. She visits her much older cousin Elizabeth, whose husband is a priest. So they are probably around retirement age. This was before the days of “youth church” and “grown up church” when families worshiped together on common ground. While there was a vast age difference, being with child was the common bond between the two. Elizabeth’s age and wisdom was a comfort to young Mary, while Mary’s youth and vigor strengthened and comforted aging Elizabeth.
So it is today. The young still need the “old” and the “old” still need the young. We all need each other to stay healthy, balanced and happy.