I seem to be attending a lot of family celebrations these days – some joyful, some, uncomfortable. There’s a couple I’m not sure what category to relegate them to! This week I went to the funeral of the father of a school friend. An affable, familiar face, always kind to me. As this man’s clan had been part of a small farming hamlet since before he was born, and his sons still live in the area, the funeral was very respectfully attended by the community, with the place full to the rafters. A host of recognizable, if older, faces sprinkled the crowd; cronies of mine from way, way back. This sort of sortie in my life is usually akin to all the joys of an impacted abscess, but some things just must be endured. Truth to tell, the gathering was equal parts pain and pleasure; a sure sign of something striking on the visceral level, where we actually care what people think of us.
The service itself was quite beautiful in the homey familiarity that a group who have known each other for a very long time through the good and bad somehow create. Simple, heartfelt tributes and gentle hymns shrouded us warmly in a united moment. The sensation was a bit like putting on a pair of treasured work-boots from the back of your closet – well-worn, but still valuable. A video tribute of flashing images marked significant moments in the life of this patriarch. These presentations always manage to capture the disturbing subtext of just how fast life, even one thoughtfully and prudently expended, really passes. The rapid unfolding of the generations is suddenly upon us in all its unflinching reality.
This was further driven home to me as I walked into the Hall and the first sight that greeted me was my friend, proudly holding his first grandchild. He was actually one of the last of our class to have grandchildren, so why it struck me forcibly this time, I’m not sure. When you haven’t had children of your own, you aren’t as aware of the changing of the generational guard. It dawned on me that I am now of the ‘grand-parents’ generation!! Ye Gads! In retrospect, though, this demographic feels a lot more relaxed and comfortable than the highly exposed ‘marriage and children’ season, where singleness stands out like a sore thumb. It’s cozy being the generation once removed. The spotlight is on the younger set, and that’s just peachy with me.
Seeing once again the fleeting, inexorable thrumming of the days, I can’t help thinking about how the Almighty considers it all. To Him, one generation is just a watch in the night, and yet nowhere in Scripture does He express contempt for its brief span. In fact, we’re assured that the Lord treasures each one like an irreplaceable jewel; one of a kind. Even one life and its scant duration is of incalculable worth to Him. Each generation has its own time and anointing; a distinct destiny for the earth as unique as a fingerprint.
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments… Deuteronomy 7:9
In these words, you can feel the heavy weight of the Lord’s gaze. He doesn’t write even one era of man off. Jesus Himself called His peers on the earth “a wicked and perverse generation” (Mark 8:38), but that didn’t stop Him for a nanosecond in pouring out His life for them.
As I visit various congregations, I’m amazed and ashamed at how few people my own age are present. The sixties saw a cultural, sexual and technological revolution that seduced many away from simple faith. Self-actualization became the new idol; ‘if it feels good, do it’, the mantra. In fairness, the Church, anchored to fleshly ideas of bigotry and chauvinism, denominational loyalty and political correctness was sorely tested and found severely wanting. It was an Institution that failed to provide answers to the searchers. In the dearth of authentic spiritual freshness, many fell away. I’m afraid my generation has become the one scathingly, but accurately described here.
There is a generation that curses its father, and does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness. There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, And whose fangs are like knives, To devour the poor from off the earth, And the needy from among men. Proverbs 30:11-14 NKJV
Is there hope for a tribe of such selfish, cruel cynics and grumbling malcontents? They are the dead, dry bones of Ezekiel 37, and I’m feverishly prophesying life over them. I know it seems impossible, but as I get older, I do see my peers returning to the faith they were raised in. In these communal occasions, I’ve actually managed to have intense, heartfelt spiritual conversations with the very people who once labelled me a lunatic. It’s a testimony to the old proverb “Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Many have tried what the world has to offer and found it empty and broken. They’re longing; parched for the faithful genuineness something deep within them declares to be true. They’re pining, heart-sick for the simple, unconditional love of their heavenly Father. He is faithful and true; a bulwark in all generations. The prodigals are finally coming to their senses, abandoning secular pig slop, and running, safe for home.
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Psalm 90:1-3