The Joy of Life
It had been a long, difficult trip. We had left our home in South Bend, Indiana, six days before Christmas and driven to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a lectureship. My three children were unhappy about being away from home and sitting through a three-day teen youth seminar. Christmas had been spent with five of us in a small motel room. The motel owners felt so sorry for my children that they had erected a decorated Christmas tree in our room while we were away at the last day of the lectureship.
The next stop was Snyder, Texas, for a community-wide program in a municipal auditorium. That would be followed by a long drive back to South Bend and back to school. All the way from Colorado Springs to Snyder, my three children lamented their fate--long hours in the car, Christmas in a motel, long hours listening to Daddy talk, and being away from their friends.
When we got to Snyder, we found that we were going to stay with the Bufford Browning family. Bufford was an elder in the church, and they had room for us. We worried about three small children in the home of a family whose children were grown, and the children envisioned three days of "Don't touch that" from their parents. We expressed our concern, but Bufford and his wife would have no part of us being anywhere but with them. I remember my two girls pouting as we got them ready for bed that Thursday night. "What is there to do here?" they asked. Bufford overheard the question and responded, "We're going to go feed the cows, ride in the truck, see the farm, and let your dad see some west Texas rocks." The enthusiasm in his voice and the fact that they were going to have some new experiences pacified my children.
The next morning after breakfast, Bufford loaded us into his pickup truck, picked up cattle feed, and drove us to his farm where he raised a sizable herd of cattle. He then put my kids in the back of the truck with the feed and honked his horn. Cows came from everywhere to get their daily ration of prepared feed. He showed the children how to hold the feed in their hands and had them hold it out to one of his cows he knew to be especially gentle. The cow licked the feed off my daughter's hand--causing her to squeal with delight "It feels like sandpaper." To this day, my daughter Cathy remembers that experience. When we got back to the Browning's house that afternoon, I told Bufford that I wanted a picture of him with my two girls. He scooped them up and the result is on the cover of this bimonthly. A Christian family permanently altered the direction of three children in a very positive way.
We live in a culture today where this kind of positive interaction between generations is becoming rare. Geographic boundaries separate the generations as employment moves people far away from each other. Divorce, single parenthood, and full-time employment of all adults further complicate the process of one generation learning to love and appreciate another. Even in the church, we see a polarization of people based on age where seniors tend to sit together and do things together while younger Christians confine their association to people in their own age group. We are even seeing this polarization in the worship service itself--with some movement toward having separate services.
We would challenge the church to reverse this process. We need to promote an open worship and fellowship that bridges the generation gap and brings people of different ages together. Youth ministers, golden age programs, and leadership as a whole have a responsibility to work at this goal. There are biblical admonitions to this end:
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
The aged women likewise,...teachers of good things, that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children... (Titus 2:3-4).
I remember that, when we left the Brownings to go home, I mentioned to Bufford how much of a hit he had made with the children. They were happy and positive about the trip the whole time they were in Snyder. He was reading to my son Tim at the time, and he gave Tim a hug and said, "Ahh--this is one of the great joys of life. I hope we get to do this again." We never did get back to visit the Brownings, but the joy that they brought to each of our lives continues on.
--John N. Clayton
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug98.