By Ward Shope
There is a mythical phase of married life when your children are out of the house on their own and your parents have not yet reached the stage where they need your regular attention. In this phase, the “empty nest” becomes nirvana, where lovebirds can date their spouse with as few (or fewer) restrictions as the days leading up to their marriage. However, “mythical” is the key word here. The Lord so orders most of our lives so that, for our good, we serve both generations with attention all our days.
My mother is 88 years old. On her 81st birthday, she failed to negotiate a speed bump in a church parking lot, lost her balance and broke her hip. Since then, she has had heart valve surgery, broken her tail bone, and broken her other hip. Despite a frail body, she is sharp mentally, growing in faith, and a delight to be with. I consider God’s providence favorable for us.
I know others who are more fearfully challenged. A friend mentioned that she regularly Skyped with her mother 1500 miles away, often having to help her make dinner because of her forgetfulness. And now her mother requires even more care. Some of us have dying parents, or those who can’t remember our names, and sometimes they are living in conditions that we wish we could change.
In 1987, when New Life began, an energetic group of mainly 20- and 30-year-olds were just getting married, having children and beginning their careers. Thirty years later, those same people are closing in on, or have begun, retirement. Their children are grown, and their parents are experiencing all of the possible scenarios for the elderly.
At the same time, we’ve also picked up members who were retired when they joined New Life. We are blessed with a church that regularly has babies born, while others exercise the wisdom God has given them through many years of walking with the Lord. There is great breadth and depth among us.
But our emerging generation is the elderly. I’m excited that a visitation team, headed up by Ellen Kay Barker, Elaine MacQueen, and Maryanne Soper, has begun to meet the needs of those who are shut in, have medical problems, and struggle to physically be a part of New Life. This is not always the elderly. But as this new generation appears among us, who still need spiritual counsel and want to grow, we will be better equipped to apply the gospel practically for their sake.