College days. Some good times in life and a good time for my life.
I look back at what I thought I knew about life then and it makes me cringe. I envisioned I had a good perspective, but the decades now behind me remind that I was not as mature about life as I thought.
Enter Scott. Scott was a graduate student and I was somewhere around a junior in college. Though not a great span of years between us, he was very mature and in the next stage of life. I really cannot tell you why, but Scott approached me, introduced himself, and asked to take me to a local all-you-can-eat buffet.
What college guy would not go for that?
That was not the only dinner he treated me too. Because there were many more after that. I was curious why this graduate student wanted to spend time with me. We did not have intersecting hobbies or even a common group of friends. He simply wanted to mentor me. For whatever reason, he desired to come alongside my life and invest in it.
Our discussions centered around life and how I was doing spiritually and his speaking truth to me. There was nothing to gain from me in these ventures; he simply chose to hang out while treating me to (what seemed like) endless options of buffet menu items.
Scott completed grad school and we lost touch. I have not communicated with him in decades. But yet I will always have some gratitude in my heart for what he did for me. He gracefully inserted himself into my life simply to mentor and invest. To offer a valuable perspective.
I did not get the impact then. As a college dude, I gladly poured my heart out for a guy who would treat for dinners!
But since then, I have gone through many seasons of life: husband, father, grandfather, church member, coworker. And I get it more now. And there is an aspect about generations that I find more and more concerning: where are the older men who are willing to mentor those coming behind them?
The growing gap between generations
Though the 21st century has a lot of aspects for which to be grateful, there seems to be one that is going to devastate us: the widening social and communication gap between older and younger men. Some of it is technology – you have a millennial generation whose technology is central to their being while an older generation is happy with their flip phone. You have couples getting married later in life, having kids later in life, which makes those couples even older when they become grandparents. The older view the younger as “not getting it.” The younger view the older as irrelevant. And the examples go on.
And taking all of these factors together, things have morphed over time into a scenario where I see the millennials hanging pretty much with their own age group and those at the other end of the age spectrum doing life with their age group.
And though there is nothing inherently wrong in doing life with others in your stage of life, I am seeing less and less of 1) those in the next stage of life jumping into the lives of those at an earlier stage of life, and 2) those at a younger stage of life being willing to ask for an investment from the next stage of life.
What is my responsibility to the younger dudes?
Though I see this among both genders, I want to speak primarily to us as guys. Like it or not, I am quickly moving toward the “older men” status mentioned in Titus 2. And I find myself asking if I am content primarily hanging with other middle-ages dudes or am I actively seeking out the younger dudes as well to pour into?
Though the 21st century has given many new advancements, it has been lacking in keeping the conversation going among multi-generationals. I do not think it was done by intent. It just happened over time. And the gap kept growing with technology, social interests, hobbies, and commonalities of life – until there seemed to be nothing in common.
Except life itself. Life is still challenging, regardless of the age. And no matter the gap in years, guys still struggle with their purity, loving their wives like Jesus loved His church, modeling grace and humility to their kids, and getting discouraged by the circumstances of life.
Unfortunately, we have allowed such a chasm between between ages that it is soon forgotten where life does overlap and intersect.
So to you “older guys” out there – will you continue to sit and watch? To you “younger guys” out there – will you continue to live life on your own, only getting advice from those who have no more experience than you?
This gap I see in our local churches is not healthy. And it certainly is not biblical. And it most definitely does not have to look tomorrow as it looks today.
How can we change the status quo?
To you “older dudes” who have some life notches on your belt – can I add some purpose to your life?
- Pray that God would intersect your life with a younger dude – someone at a prior stage of life.
- Take that guy out for a meal or coffee. Ask a lot of questions about their life and simply listen.
- Share your own struggles and what God is doing in your life.
- Repeat. And then repeat again.
- Each time together, ask that young dude how you can be of help to him.
- And as you start to do life together, life will happen, and you will be there when the turbulent time hits.
- Share how you screwed things up in the past but how Jesus has rescued you from you. Show him Truth.
I have been on the one-being-mentored side of things in various stages of my life. And I am so grateful for the pitfalls they helped me avoid and the clarity they gave me in seeing Jesus. I am different because of it. Will you respond to the great need?
Thanks Scott, for modeling for me what I hope to do for others.