The Second Half
I’ve reached the stage of life where you can probably tell how old I am by reading the junk mail in my mail box each day. Any number of people are trying to sell me hearing aids, Medicare supplements, life alert systems, incontinence supplies discreetly delivered to my door and a host of other “senior” things. I’ve always wondered about that discreetly delivered claim. As opposed to what? Some guy riding up with a bullhorn on top of his truck blaring “Attention everyone! I am bringing Tom his diapers.”? Who knows? Maybe someday I will find out.
One thing that came in today’s mail pointed out that it was not too late to buy life insurance now that I was “in the second half of life.” Second half? Thinking about it, even if we set aside the idea that none of us knows our actual lifespan, just using statistics I am at least into the fourth quarter. Who are they trying to kid? Are they trying to make me feel better by hinting that I might live to 130?
Anyway, in our church we are talking about the whole idea of mentoring. Should we older folks be more willing to act as mentors to those younger than us, particularly young married couples? My first comment upon hearing this question was “What do you mean by mentoring?”
Some folks see this as some sort of information transfer or teaching, like we are supposed to help them learn about Jesus. Others seem to see it as advice on habits to cultivate, looking for lists of things that they need to do to be successful. My wife and I have been married for 42 years and we often hear people ask us variations on “What is the secret to a long marriage?” I’ve gotten tired of saying “Marry young and stay together.” A stupid answer but it is better than saying “I don’t know.”
Still others seem to want inspiring stories of how we survived and grew in points of crisis. I suppose that with these stories we are “stir one another up to love and good works.” This may be a good idea but I am not sure whether my 1985 crisis point will have much bearing on your 2035 crisis when it comes. So just what do we have to offer?
Probably not specific advice. I think that 20-somethings have a better handle on, and are better equipped for, the issues of the future than I do. Life just changes too fast. My wife was a lightning-fast touch typist and a proficient in shorthand. I know, or knew, how to use a slide rule. Nobody has asked us about learning these skills.
So what is left? Are we just supposed to shuffle off into a corner and watch the world go by? I’m beginning to think that the answer lies in this verse:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1
As wonderful as it is to have a great heavenly crowd cheering us on I suspect that, if there is anything at all we have to give, it is an example of that endurance. Having people whose lives overlap ours but who are several mile-markers down the road gives a testimony to endurance.
Frankly, ordinary every-day people probably do this better than superstars and heroes. Surviving the trials, the mistakes, the heartaches, maybe even the colossal screw-ups, of an ordinary life and still keeping going matters. Historical figures of faith; superstar preachers and teachers; great martyrs and saints are all good. The ordinary guy plodding along beside you, and who has been plodding along for more years than you’ve been alive, may not have all the answers; in fact I am sure we don’t. But we can demonstrate that it is possible to plod along even when it seems that you can’t. All we have to do is be willing to authentically live that out before the next generation.