My thoughts today are spawned from a couple of different sources. Last week, as I had stated yesterday, I spent several days at my denomination’s international business meeting. While I will readily acknowledge that both denominations and business meetings are not the sexiest topics in our culture I cannot deny the fact that I enjoyed the experience greatly, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have been involved.
One of the issues that was on the agenda, and the one that was perhaps the most hotly debated topic, had to do with the minimum requirements for an individual to be eligible for the highest rank of ministry in the denomination. Consequently, it is only this rank of ministry that is allowed to speak and vote during these business sessions. So there was an irony even in the deliberations that was reminiscent of the old slogan, “No taxation without representation.”
The nuances of the issue notwithstanding, the debate became a back-and-forth, caricature building contest focusing on the intrinsic incompetency of youth versus the inflexible, tight-fisted grip of power by the elders. Now, this sounds more divisive that it actually turned out to be. But, despite ultimately ending with graceful sentiment, the tremors continue to be felt.
That alone may have warranted a post about the burgeoning relationship between those who have led and those who will lead, but a blog post by a pastor that I highly respect (which I recommend reading, here), dealing with same issue, has become the catalyst for me weighing in.
I do not believe that ageism plays into the discussion for the majority of voices involved. I also do not believe that there is any hostility in those that actually care. I truly believe that both sides of the issue are working from a place of genuine and loving passion.
As I have thought about the issue I couldn’t shake the images of a father, his son, and an automobile. I believe that a major reason a son wants to drive is not just to get somewhere. Bicycles and skateboards can extend a teenager’s borders significantly. The reason he wants to drive, fundamentally, is because his father drives. It’s an adult, masculine, and important thing to engage in. The father has driven the family to the store to get necessities, to the doctor to ensure health, to the church to build the spirit, to the school to nurture education, on vacation to offer rest and recreation. The father has done those things because they were needed; and part of maturing and growing is a transition from doing frivolous things to doing important things. Capriciousness is no longer as appealing when it is held up against the fulfillment of supporting and helping.
We as people have an innate longing to be necessary. We are rarely satisfied with being merely liked, we need to be integral in at least some things. We want to play a role that directly affects things that we value. Granted, we all have our own unique way of notching those roles out, but the need seems to be universal.
So as the son grows in his desire to drive more, and not only for independence but to be depended upon, there is a level of friction that should be expected. Fathers are used to being the ones that are depended upon, and sharing some of those responsibilities is a difficult proposition for many. For one, fathers tend to like things a certain way; and if they relinquish control of those things who knows how they will be approached and handled. Also, fathers don’t like even unintended threats to their all encompassing necessity.
Truly, the drive that causes a son to want to begin sharing in the father’s role is the same drive that cause a father to be hesitant to release it to him.
At least two things emerge from this, in my opinion:
First: trust is not actually earned (as has been the traditional mantra), it is given in increments by fathers and then assessed
Second: prior to their ever being a shift in “power”, the conversations that are generated in a family by the sons are of incalculable worth because these important discussions would never happen without the sons bringing them up.
I have neither room nor time today to go into these two observations with the kind of depth and scrutiny they require, but there is a takeaway that I think covers them both without demeaning either. Tension is the temple of truth. In the places where we find ourselves pulled in multiple directions, we’ve likely found the answer to our question. And generally that area of tension will frustrate the masses on either side. Tension is also a lonely place. But until the paradigm shaking conversations that the youth in a movement uniquely bring are allowed in a forum where they actually matter (Twitter and Facebook DO NOT fall into that category) then the fathers will continue to have difficulty entrusting them with more. And conversely, until the fathers of a movement see that the sons aren’t going wreck the car, paint it bright magenta, or abuse the privilege of driving it they will be resistant to any of the changes that are proposed.
I refuse to offer an easy solution. I would be a foolish son if I did, which would in turn create subtle distrust in the fathers that I need to have important conversations with. And besides that, easy solutions are rarely good ones. I believe that any “movement” needs to be dedicated to bringing a broad spectrum of experience, age, and cultural backgrounds together, because movement is really only achieved by troubling things that are perfectly satisfied remaining sedentary. And though I believe, in time, these discussions will happen, there is a sense of urgency. Urgency not based in a desire to see something dismantled and sold for parts, but urgency that is driven by a desire to see a bond of the wisdom and experience of elders energized by the passion, brightness, and boldness of youth. Both hold the other accountable, and without both there is, in some ways, a dangerous lack of accountability.
I believe that the younger and older must be allowed to speak to each other in important forums for the joy and benefit of both. Losing sight of the individuals that make up the body by trying to focus on the corporate body is a very corporate and professionally savvy, and it is also almost completely antithetical to the teaching of the New Testament. In the tension, on the edge of danger, at the point of dismantle, in the mouth of the lion, and, dare I say, at the cross is where the Christian church has always found it’s greatest victories. Often, when we exist slightly askew of the world’s wisdom, we place ourselves fully within the realm of God’s wisdom.