Across the divide

This week, Scot McKnight’s must-read Jesus Creed blog linked to an excellent Books & Culture article about the lifestage now being dubbed “Emerging Adulthood”. This piece offers a more academic spin on what I’m observing in my own kids, in the lives of the emerging adults with whom I interact at work, in the words of blogs and books penned by this demographic, and as I watch and listen to what’s going on in our broader culture. It’s a somewhat lengthy piece, but well worth your time.
I am a tail-end Boomer, born in 1959. When I look at that year, I think sometimes it may as well be 1959 B.C. It looks like ancient history. 1959.
I have often found myself impatient with Boomer ethos, both in the culture and in the church. (And sadly, the latter often mirrors the former so perfectly that both of them blur together in a very icky way – but this post ain’t about flogging that tired horse.) We Boomers, besides frequently possessing a stunning sense of our own Importance and a perverse desire to look Goldie Hawn-young, have allowed our generational identity to be forged as victims of the Generation Gap. “My elders don’t understand me!” became both battle cry and justification for decades of some really bratty behavior by us Boomers.
And in a weirdly just turn of events, many of us Boomers (the parents of this wave of emerging adults) now stand on the other side of a new, uncharted Generation Gap. We have both contributed to and exacerbate the struggle our kids are now experiencing. These kids aren’t whining that we don’t understand them. They are trying to grow a life, while we are viewing their battle to figure out who they are through our own John Lennon-shaped lenses.
I have heard Malachi 4:5-6 (“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”) quoted everywhere from homeschooling conventions to The Call. I occasionally see little glimmers of what fulfillment of this might look like in action – in mustard-seed sized packages. Boomers relinquishing the stage and the microphone. Emergening gens washing the feet of boomers.
But mostly, we don’t. And we’re losing too many of the emerging gen as a result. May God have mercy on us all. It is not in any of our hearts to live with our hearts turned to someone on the other side of a generational divide. (Or, for that matter, with our hearts turned to the person right next to us, on our side of the divide. Again, I digress…) This Malachi promise is a benchmark of revival; it is also a violent, paradigm shattering promise of His return. It is a picture of the kingdom.
I can offer no clever solution here. Only to know that if I pray “Lord, Your kingdom come…”, I need to be ready, willing and able to repent.
And to listen to the voices on the other side of the divide. Something tells me that if I repent, their distant whispers will become shouts.
P.S. – I’m adding paragraph breaks – honestly! I can’t figger out how to convince Blogger to do what I tell it to do.

About Michelle Van Loon
  • Anonymous

    Michelle,
    The work by David Brooks BOBO�s in Paradise talks about the blending of the Bohemian & Bourgeois mindsets in America cultural thought today (which has drifted into the church). He says BOBO�s attempt to reconcile freedom with commitment, virtue with affluence autonomy with community that leads to too many compromises…

    BOBO�s says Brooks, desire rigor without submission Orthodoxy without obedience what he calls – �FLEXIDOXY� with many spiritual fudges…

    Another work I would recoment is Generation Me by Jean Twenge, PhD � 2006 Simon & Schuster as she addresses the self esteme movement.
    Btrooks and Gwenge both speak of the “spiritual” side in this boomer generation…many good points and thoughts.

    Pr. Dan Dahling – Decatur, IN

  • Anonymous

    Michelle,

    Have to share this with you. A practice in our church is after the choir has sung a number of members leave the choir loft to sit with their families for the duration of the service. As one of our members was making his way to be seated with his family a 4 year old observing one of our male members whispered to his mother, “Mom, Dr. Phil is at church today!”

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Dan – good recommendations, both of `em. BoBos In Paradise especially sounds like an interesting read. Thanks!

    And – I’m not sure who the anonymous poster was who shared this great story that definitely goes under the category of “Out of the mouths of babes”, but it made me grin and wonder if Dr. Phil was going to sit with Oprah for the rest of your service. (Dan? Does Dr. Phil’s twin bro go to your church???)

  • Anonymous

    There is a fairly new book out that also might shed some light on this. It’s called “The Death of the Grown-up” by Diana West. I have not read it, but it appears to touch on what you are saying and on something I’ve noticed in recent years which is the lack of maturity in people my age (50+). I tire of middle agers who seem to think that the worst sin to befall mankind is that of being “un-cool” and go to great lengths to ensure that they remain hip and with-it. I think, though, that in the eyes of many of our youth, they just seem ridiculous, but, unfortunately, that leaves the young with few decent role-models. An acquaintance of mine has said many times that she if she can’t be a role model to her children, she intends to serve as a dire warning. That is a mentality I just can’t wrap my mind around.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Our gen is living out the Who’s prayer – with a twist: Hope I die before I get old (except I refuse to get old).

    I want to stay current (aware of and connected to culture) while growing in wisdom and grace…as in, aging.


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