We are puppysitting for some friends, a four month old chocolate lab named Bella. She is already taller than our full-grown Australian cattle dog, though not as heavy, a long-legged gangly dog still with a puppy mindset—which means faster is better than slower, all things are meant to be chewed upon, and play time is the only time.
Chloe, on the other hand, is middle-aged, 6½, or about 45 in dog years. To her the best things in the world are a belly scratch, a chewy treat, and a nap, and one of the worst things in the world is a puppy being foisted upon her carefully controlled domain. She learned quickly that Bella has difficulty getting under the truck—something about all those long knobby leg bones getting in the way—so she spends the vast majority of her day there while Bella roams about being a curious puppy. Someone I know well has learned not to leave things lying about outside if he doesn’t want them ventilated with puppy-teeth holes, something I consider an unexpected benefit to Bella’s visit.
Chloe is not a purely sedentary lap dog, though. She enjoys nosing around some, and will run back and forth to the gate to greet us. She walks around the property with me and often leaves me in the dust when she spies something interesting in the corner woods. Bella is walking with us now. Her nose is always in the air, and her ears cocked for any sounds that might drift our way—one neighbor’s baying bloodhound and the other’s crowing rooster, for example. But she doesn’t listen long. As soon as she determines the direction, she is off in a shot while Chloe listens a bit more, making a studied determination about whether the sound needs investigating or not.
Bella thinks everything is a game. She has no ability to distinguish when it’s time to be serious. Chloe will stop for a drink and Bella will be all over her, standing in the water, stepping on the edge of the pan, causing it to tilt and spilling the water everywhere. When a frog jumps in the old tubs Keith uses to soak his hickory wood for smoking meat, she jumps right in after it, NOT looking before she leaps, landing belly deep with a splash. Reminds me of the puppy we had once who thought the rattlesnake next to the woodpile was a toy and tried to play with it. We managed to get him away before he was bitten, but when we left for a camping trip, the neighbor found him one morning with fang marks in his neck. Lucky for him, the skin there was loose and that’s all the snake got, not the muscle in his neck.
Yet despite their own preferences, both of these dogs are adapting. Chloe finally learned to quit running away and stand up for herself. After a nip or two on the nose, Bella knows who the boss is now and she will actually “bow” before Chloe, lowering her height by crouching on her belly in front of her. Chloe will now stand nose to nose with her, sniffing, and then suddenly take off in a run, looking behind to make sure Bella is chasing her. Bella has learned to be a little more discreet and Chloe has learned that fun is still—well, fun, and it’s worth having some once in awhile.
Older and younger people—older and younger Christians, no matter their physical age—need to learn from one another in the same way. We teach our children not to go running down the halls, especially among older people who have issues with balance and might be knocked over. A fall for the elderly could easily lead to a broken bone, and how many broken bones have led to a fatal case of pneumonia? That’s not something a child would ever think of, which is why the adults must teach them. In the same way, babes in Christ mustn’t go running helter-skelter down our spiritual halls with no concern about the fragile souls we might encounter. Yet, the older ones need to learn that we must go out into those halls and encounter those souls, not sit quietly and safely in our pews.
The younger must learn the need for wisdom and discretion and the value of quiet reverence, but the older must learn that “emotion” is not a four letter word.
The younger must learn respect for those they label “nay-sayers.” They must realize that those old “fuddy-duddy” cautions come from concern for their younger souls’ safety and good, not from cowardice or a lack of faith. The older must remind themselves that God called them to take a risk, to exercise their faith not to sit in dusty rooms discussing it.
The younger in the faith and the older in the faith—we learn from each other, but not if we’re too busy putting one another down, refusing to listen to one another, with attitudes full of disrespect and disdain.
The glory of young men is their strength, but the beauty of old men is their gray hair, Prov 20:29.