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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Intergenerational Friendship

By Amy Alexander
Jan. 8, 2012

In May 2010, the stereotypical mold of old age was shattered into a thousand pieces for me. It was at this time that my husband, Dr. Danny Alexander, preached the evening services for the North Texas District (Assemblies of God) Senior Camp. The camp focused on senior adults; however, young adults also attended the services.

During these days various incidents occurred, demonstrating vibrancy in old age. One example took place on a Tuesday night when my husband called the congregation to come across the front of the auditorium; the people stood several rows deep. Then he identified four ministers to help him in the altar service.

One of the four ministers was a self-identified octogenarian. Due to the densely packed number of people standing in front of the platform, this minister, unable to access the platform’s steps, to my amazement, literally jumped flat-footed and landed easily and securely — “sticking it” on the platform, which was at least 3 feet high. (He had been a gymnast as a young man.) The stereotype was breaking.

That same night I also heard a young woman of 20, who is a close friend of ours, comment about a lady at the camp who had been married for 65 years, another octogenarian. With admiration, my young friend said, “She looks like she is only 60, and I love her style. I’d like to get to know her better.” Again, the stereotype was breaking.

The next morning, Wednesday, testimonies filled the service, conveying fresh dreams and visions of ministry for today, not longings for yesterday. The stereotype was shattered.

My husband and I are both in our fifties, and for over 30 years we have taught young adults at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. Consequently, I understand their needs and mindset.

But after my wonderful experience at Senior Camp, I left convinced that young and senior adults should form close relationships with each other. These mature believers are the true “life coaches” who know what life is all about and are willing to share that knowledge.

So what will be gained from linking these generations, from forging an intergenerational friendship?

The older generation ...

Possesses a deep, working knowledge of the Scripture, providing a road map for the young.

Has a steadfast faith that has endured, like that of Job, shaken through trials but enduring.

Is full of power from a lifetime of intimacy with and obedience to God (Psalm 71:6,17-23).

The younger generation ...

Has a contagious vitality that will reinvigorate the energy and enthusiasm within the older people.

Sees visions for the future that mesh with the dreams of the older (Acts 2:18).

Possesses a passionate commitment to God that stirs up the fresh oil of anointing (Psalm 92:10, KJV).

Of course, as the age span increases, walls of biases and stereotypes are inevitable. But the walls will fall when the first stone is removed. Haven’t all relationships had some awkwardness initially, when strangers begin the process of becoming friends? And hasn’t the reward outweighed the risk and the struggle?

The spark of iron sharpening iron can happen in an instant. The older person may initiate a discussion of mutual interest, such as a sporting event or an athlete or a hobby. A younger person may feel a desire to “pick the brain” of someone whose knowledge he or she respects.

Naomi and Ruth, Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Elizabeth and Mary, and Paul and Timothy are a few examples of those who bridged the generation gap. There is no reason these types of relationships cannot be forged in our churches today. Once the chemistry occurs and the connection is made, like Naomi and Ruth, there will be blessings for both: Naomis leading Ruths to God’s destiny, and Ruths renewing the joy of Naomis (Ruth 4:14,15).

This past spring semester, I was at Starbucks with two of my students, one who was soon to graduate. They asked for my most important piece of advice. I said, “The person who walks with the wise grows wise” (Proverbs 13:20, NIV).

I have seen wisdom in people of all ages. I’ve been challenged by the prayer lives of my students and their reckless abandon in pursuing Christ and His will. I have been amazed at the faith of older Christians who pray without ceasing, who never give up, never give in, and never give out. They know the secret of overcoming physical hardships. Because they have spent their lives in hearing and obeying God’s voice, they are sources of strength and help to others on the journey.

We are fellow pilgrims on this journey to heaven, and we can help each other stay on the path, run the race, and finish the course, arriving safely inside the gates of the celestial city.

A.W. Tozer said, “Don’t follow any leader until you see the mark of the oil on his forehead.” I saw that mark on an 84-year-old woman from Forth Worth, so vibrant in her spirit that she told my husband at Senior Camp, “I may just start dancing down the aisle if the Holy Spirit moves tonight.”

Walls of separation, both of the young and old, can be and should be shattered, thereby allowing opportunity for a rewarding synergistic and symbiotic relationship.

DR. AMY ALEXANDER is professor of English at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas.

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