The other side of the gap

Generation gap

Generation gap

I was up late talking with my 15-year-old son Chandler last night and I must say, I have fully graduated to the other side of the generation gap. I know I felt some of this with my adult children when they were Chandler’s age, but not like this. Perhaps they humored me. Chandler doesn’t have ability to placate in his character. He is who he is and speaks his mind, and that’s that.

Chandler has ideas about the world I haven’t heard since I was twenty. I’m recognizing these ideas now, yet from the other side. I’m seeing both the desirability and foolishness of some of them, and I would like to save him the pain of having to find out some things the hard way, but I can’t, because we are speaking two different languages.

Chandler’s mind works overtime, and he has figured out some ideas about the world that are simplistic, naive and idealistic. Sound familiar? I can remember thinking my parents were caught in the “system” and how we were going to be different.

I’m feeling the weight of the years I have on Chandler that gives me a wiser perspective but no way of communicating it. He thinks I am so firmly entrenched in the “system” that I can’t possibly understand how he is thinking. I am feeling the generation gap deeper than when I was on the other side of it. There’s no way that Chandler can fully understand me without living my life, and no way I can fully understand him except by living his life without the years I have on him. Both are impossible.

How do you represent the law, the system, or whatever else it has been called, and represent love and understanding at the same time? I feel a little like God might be giving me the counseling Jim Carrey got from Morgan Freeman, the God figure in the movie Bruce Almighty, when Carrey asked him, “How can you get people to love you if you can’t mess with their free will?” To which Freeman replied, “Well, welcome to my world.” I’m feeling God’s world right now, it’s just that I’m not God.

Something clicked when I wrote earlier: “no way I can fully understand him except by living his life without the years I have on him.” Is that not what God did for us when He became a human being? He emptied Himself of His right to be God and was born like us so He understands our human limitations. And because His memory is perfect, He knows what it’s like to be fifteen. I’ve forgotten a lot of that. He can be Chandler’s God and my God at the same time, and if there’s a chance of us understanding each other, it will come through Him. He is such an awesome, all-knowing, yet all-understanding God. He has empathy with the human race.

I don’t have any great conclusion to this except to hold on tight to God’s promises. How to be love and law at the same time? It’s been quite a ride so far; I can only guess where this is going.

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11 Responses to The other side of the gap

  1. L. Jones says:

    Makes me think of the haunting lyrics and melody of Neil Young’s Old Man Song.

    • bobenearSeattle says:

      Yeah, I hear ya’…
      The songs that haunted me reading this were Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s “Teach Your Children Well”, and Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle”.

  2. Carole in Midland says:

    John, your writing today reminds me of a “discussion” my dad and I had when I was around 14 or so. This was just one of the countless very loud “discussions” dad and I had around that time. In complete frustration, my dad said “If you would only listen, you wouldn’t have to make all the mistakes I did!” and I replied, “Dad, I have to make my OWN mistakes or I’ll never figure anything out.” Well, John, here it is, 45 or so years later, and I’m still making them and still trying to figure things out. Aren’t we all?

  3. John, that’s just your fear speaking, isn’t it? Fear that Chandler will experience pain, that he’ll fail (that you will have failed him?), that everything will go wrong? I think, like me, based on your recent confession of a love of charts and graphs and information and knowledge (see, you’re not alone!) that you tend to be a fixer and control and order are the same as peace and obedience, where God is pleased with our performance. What I’ve come to know about this in my own life is that it is at its root nothing but unbelief and a distrust that God really is in control and faithful to carry out his will, for my life and that of the entire universe, including those I love most. The answer for me has been and still is confessing my unbelief to Abba daily and surrendering absolutely everything, especially my idols of protecting and fixing, to his mercy and grace, and the power that is His alone to free me. Imagery speaks powerfully to me and this need and submission emerges as a vision of me kneeling at the manger and also at the cross while all hell is breaking loose around me. In my heart and on my lips are the words: “I mean it. No matter what.” Despite the horrors around me though, the image feels peaceful and hopeful from both the light emanating from the manger and the shadow cast from the cross.

    That gap is what you have already traversed to where you are now and the one Chandler will travel as he moves through his own journey into age, and hopefully, wisdom. Your life now WILL be a guide to him, although he has yet to recognize that. The gap is meant to be there and God clearly uses it. It was, after all, the younger generation who ended up crossing the Jordan and conquering the Promised Land. Not us old geezers! We NEED the idealism of youth, its confidence and brashness and rawness and BELIEF to balance the caution and slowness (Chandler might call it stodgy or old or boring or systemized and he might be right) that sometimes comes with the wisdom of age and experience. Youthful idealism is its own kind of wisdom and helps us remember that this world can be – indeed, MUST be – a better place. No need to bridge the gap. Instead, embrace it as God’s gift to you, your son and the world.

  4. TimC says:

    John: The consternation you express is not only due to the generation gap. It’s like a jig saw puzzle with several pieces missing – we don’t get the whole picture, yet.

    Having had two boys of our own and then adopting two girls, I might be able to fill in one of the pieces for you. When our boys were 12 and 14 we added two foster/adopt girls who were 4 and 6. We could understand our boys’ thought processes fairly well, but through the years we have seen some very different thought processes with the girls. Of course, there are some differences because of the gender difference, but there have very definitely been some “gene pool” differences, and some of those differences have been truly baffling.

    And throw in one more curveball: our adopted kids with different forms of Attention Deficit Disorder and Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Attachment Disorder throw in a few more interesting wrinkles, some are good, some are difficult until they are mastered. And I don’t have time or the background to write that book, but suffice it to say that you may be looking at the discussion from a purely generational viewpoint, but you need to consider other factors as well.

  5. Peter Leenheer says:

    God has put in our dna the penchant for the impossible. Look at the stories of David and Goliath, Jericho’s walls tumbling down, Daniel not being eaten by the lions, Gideon defeating the Midianites with 300 men, clay jars, ram’s horns, and torches but no mention of weapons……the scriptures are full of these stories. My own life has a number of them as well.
    I have concluded that God has filled us with dreams. The desire for the impossible. While not all dreams come true, the dream should be just that a dream. Dreaming about the desires of one’s heart often has been killed in adults and replaced with in my view a somewhat cynical view of what we call reality. As a seventy year old man I am once again dreaming. My dream is to do an easter play about Jesus last days and his resurrection. My vision includes a drop down humungous painting of the picture of heaven in Revelation 4 with an accompanying choir/orchestra playing the Hallelujah chorus. In addition Christ’s suffering will be depicted by a set of eyes filled with incredible anguish.(I have a painting of this picture and will make it huge.). The text of the play will be taken from the 4 gospels. It will be performed by children and teenagers and adults where appropriate. Impossible you say! In fact that is the way it looks right now, I am not even in Children’s Ministry or working with the youth at this time.

    My mother in law died last week Tuesday. She was incredibly cantankerous. When she was admitted to the hospital she had to be restrained, and given a sedative. In fact her exact words were I would be better off in hell. The complaints coming from her mouth were endless, much like the last number of years. The operative words among family members was, “she will never change”. I began to pray for her soul and asked God if he would let me know if she got to heaven. I asked others to pray the same including my church prayer group.

    This is a woman who was a presbyterian for the 94 years that she lived on this earth but never talked about her faith because that was too personal, so no one knew if she had a relationship with God. A week before she died, my wife and son went to visit. The nurse said that she had been reciting Psalm 23. She told my son that she had had a visit from God. She then proceeded to speak about how much she felt loved and how much she loved everyone in the family. She died a peaceful death in the arms of Jesus. Never say never.

    Jesus said in John 14:12 that we would do greater works than he. That means we as humans are capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for, and I believe it is because we let our dreams die because we have bought into Satan’s lies that dreams are impossible.

    Do all dreams come true, of course not. God does miracles but not all people are healed. I may never do that easter play but man do I enjoy the dream. Knowing God he may have me do something equally exciting, which no doubt will be a surprise. (Isaiah 55:8,9)

    John dream with Chandler and be surprised how much FUN you will have!

  6. Markus says:

    I don’t believe that Jesus had to become human in order to understand us, but I do believe that he did so to make it easier for us to trust in him, his understanding, and his abilities. This would probably also be a good strategy for human parents, if only it was within our meagre human means. We must try though, and this does not only go for parents (Mt. 18:3).

    • jwfisch says:

      I’m not so sure, Markus. If Jesus didn’t have to become human in order to understand us, then why did He wrestle in the garden, and why did He cry “Why…?” from the cross? I believe there was something in the experience that He could not know from His place in heaven.

  7. Mark Seguin says:

    Again I’d highly recommend reading book’s by Dr. Robert Rohm and his DISC method of understanding personalities – it will help give you some insights…

  8. Suzan says:

    I fell behind in reading my daily catch, and in reading this one today I felt so moved, I’m sure it was meant for me at this very moment. We’ve just started the teenage years with my daughter, and suddenly the perspective shift has started to happen to me too. I love your quote, “He can be Chandler’s God and my God at the same time…” It’s just so amazing those moments of recognition that God has it all covered, even when I don’t. I also appreciate Leslie’s comment. It is a good reminder not to let go of my own idealism, faith and trust, no matter how cynical the world appears as we age.

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