Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Joy of Role REversal

The phone rang. I wasn't home so the automatic thingy took the message. One of my four sons whose birthday it was on March 6th left a thoughtful happy birthday message for me “because you are the 'birth person', Mom.” That's my boy! (now in his sixties) What a great idea! Celebration reversal! When you all have birthdays I will eat the cake and receive the presents! Better to start a late tradition than never!

It reminded me of the Joy of Role Reversal which some of us, in time perhaps most of us, might hope to experience as we grow older. Others may think of that time of life as the Curse of Role Reversal. They dread the time when as the elder ones we lose our independence and become reluctantly dependent on those for whom we suffered birth pains,

whose diapers we changed, whose runny noses we wiped and who we taught to close their mouths while they chew. Not all of us have progeny, to be sure, and the Lord takes care of those without offspring in singular ways. How blessed we are when, as the writer of Proverbs declared about his mom, “her children rise up and call her blessed” (31:28). Let's hope that wasn't just lip service, that her kids actually put action where their mouth was as they called their mom blessed.

Why did God have to put the instruction to honor one's father and mother in the list of the Ten Commandments? My guess is that it was because we are prone to forget where we came from. We need to be taught to be grateful and to honor them. And God caboosed a promise for obedience at the end of that commandment. I have my own litany of regrets in my growing years when I didn't fully honor my parents. In teen years we tend to become so self-absorbed and in later years we get too busy. I can't remedy my shortfalls now that my parents have passed from the scene.

As a nonagenerian now, I am experiencing the blessing of being the receiver rather than the giver—and it is not universally true that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Actually, it is a difficult struggle of mindset to be on the receiving end of help. Something to get used to. It goes against a lifetime of being the caregiver of others, being in control, being strong and in charge. Weak, fragile, frail, infirm, dependent, helpless are not words I like to apply to myself. But things are what they are. Human life and strength and ability tends to wind down as it comes nearer the time to launch into the eternal realm.

Throughout Scripture we see God being especially solicitous to widows and orphans and the marginalized. I qualify on all three counts. Those of us who are blessed with calendar years sometimes do feel marginalized even while feeling gratitude. Often we are sidelined from the game of life and quietly but restlessly watch life's action going on in the field. Passing the torch to a forthcoming generation is traumatic when we've been running a successful race ourselves. But it is inevitable. In the book of Ecclesiastes we receive a reality check: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” A majority of the 14 “...a time to...” couplets in chapter three can apply to the twilight years of human life. In summary, there is a time to take and a time to let go

I need a special grace of attitude, a humility of heart, and a malleable will to receive what God blesses me to receive in my vintage years—the help of my grown children even for the basic provisions of my life. 

I need the same virtues to gracefully give up the attachments I have worked so hard all my life to accumulate. God obviously meant that the latter part of life is for gradually detaching myself from the things of temporal life which I have collected, stored, amassed, and stashed. They are, after all, destructible. I should be more concerned with decreasing and letting go of those barnacle things that cling to us and increasing spiritual treasures to send ahead to God's Storehouse where they will be safely imperishable.

To give credit where credit is due—my four adult sons and their beloved spouses measure up well to the Proverbs 31 kids. They put the honor for their mother into action, especially since the quarter century ago when my late husband Ted died. I don't mind at all the wise counsel with which they amply supply me, (whether I asked for it or not!) the attentive, considerate physical help they give me so generously, and the thoughtful temporal provisions they arrange for and supply me with to make my advanced years easier. I even accept (a bit reluctantly?) the correction they offer me—presumably when they think I lose perspective and their “maturity” kicks in. (Now that is a tough one!) They can criticize my driving if they wish, since I was the one who taught them to drive—and they own the car and they maintain it and pay for the gas. I don't mind if they grit their teeth while smiling patiently when they are obliged to tell me multiple times how to do something at the computer.

All in all, I'm delighted to pass my torches to them, or batons in life's relay race, using a similar analogy. Why not? I'm perfectly satisfied that I've been there and done that. It may be my turn now—but soon it will be their turn for torch passing since their children are up and coming. In fact, I really like this whole idea of the Joy of Role Reversal in my summit years, and with gratitude I plan to ride that tiger wherever it wants to go!

No comments: