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Giant tree on a green hillside with the sun shining through the branchesSpiritual & Natural Development – Stage 10

Humans develop in stages. Not exactly big news – everything that develops does it in stages. But did you know that for each stage of human development, there is a corresponding stage of spiritual growth too? And the most important of these comes first! Order the tenth of the series Spiritual Growth and Human Development and learn about the stage of human development, from 65-75 years of age, and the corresponding spiritual piece.

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This is the tenth and final sermon in the series on Spiritual Growth and Human Development . We’ve been at this since November of last year. The age group that we’re talking about today is sixty-five to seventy-five. They call that, in the textbook that I’m using, late adulthood . The purpose of this series is to show how we can help people of each age deepen or develop a relationship with God. Some people are wondering, “Well, what about after seventy-five?” – since this is the last one. Well, there is another stage after seventy-five, but we’ll not be covering that because I hope to do an entire sermon on advanced age, but in a different format from the one we’re using for this series. So we’re going to end our series at ten with late adulthood at sixty-five to seventy-five.

It’s really interesting, when you stop and think about it, that God has wired into our brains developmental tasks right up until we die. Does that not point to something beyond death? It certainly does, doesn’t it? If we complete these tasks successfully, we build character. And if not, then we come to a personal crisis.

What are the developmental tasks of people sixty-five to seventy-five? It’s not uncommon today to see people who are working hard at seventy-five years of age – who are vibrant, whose minds are sharp, and who are physically fit and capable of working. Not everybody is that blessed. And all that has a lot to do with heredity as well as life-style, but it’s generally true that people are living longer now than in the past. So what are the tasks of people this age?

The first one that we want to talk about is promoting intellectual vigor . Let’s go to Proverbs 20, verse 29.

Prov. 20:29 – The glory of young men is their strength. Young men are strong. I was talking to somebody about how much weight I could pick up when I was twenty-two years old. I can’t even touch that anymore. But young men…you know, they like to run, and they like to do all kinds of things. I guess the glory of a young girl would be her physical appearance. But , it says, the splendor of old men is their gray head.

You know, people this age know so much about life that younger people don’t know, and it’s really good that they can be active and involved. Now, while they know a lot, there is declining energy, sometimes declining memory. Certainly reaction time declines. Vision sometimes. But God gives gifts to each age. Strong young men often lack the wisdom of those who are older. And the other side to that coin is that older people don’t have the strength they had when they were young. But they do have wisdom and experience, and they know more of what to expect in the future because they lived through the past. They tend to be calm and less apt to act rashly. If you think about it when you watch the news on TV, most of the people in government are between sixty and seventy-five years of age. They might not be able to run fast anymore, but they know a lot.

My own father retired at sixty-two years of age. And he lived another twenty-two years after that without doing any productive – at least, breadmaking – activities. I think he was bored a good bit of the time, because his mind was sharp right up to the end. Then I think about myself at fifty-nine – about ready to enter this age – and I find myself facing the most exciting challenge of my life right now. And I mention that because, to me, looking at the people I know, who are my age, that seems to be the trend. Better health later in life, more energy, plans and goals that are lofty just seems to be true for most of the people that I know who are about my age.

People who are healthy want to be productive in some way. I was thinking about Ronald Dart. He’s closer to the end of this age group than he is the beginning of it. And I asked him last year if he had any advice for me as I was starting up LifeResource Ministries. When I went down to Tyler to visit him, he gave me a single sheet of paper – 8 ½ by 11 – with a number of points on it – each point detailing some aspect of how he would go about doing his ministry if he were starting over today. Absolutely invaluable information for us – and it saved us a lot of headaches and, I imagine, money as well. But his experience freely shared has been a huge help to us. He was able to provide this help because he’s already walked down that road. And he started it while he was in this age group! It’s amazing! I think he was sixty when he started this. And he told me I would never work harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. And he was saying that from experience. So from sixty to seventy-two years of age, he’s worked harder than he’s ever worked in his life. Think of all the good that he’s done for people – and how much help he’s provided for people – because of that. He’s at the peak of his game right now, as far as his intellectual capacity and his understanding and wisdom that he has.

So people in this age group…they used to be considered people who were getting old, but now, they’re considered people who are at the peak, a lot of times, of their capacities. Let’s go to Ecclesiastes 11 and verse 9. You know, when you think about marriage, parenting and work, these are areas where older people can really be of great help to those who are younger. And we could also add, I guess, the spiritual area as well. The caveat there is to be able to talk to younger people in a way that they can accept it. Let’s look here in Ecclesiastes 11 and verse 9. It says:

Ecc. 11:9 – Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes. In other words, “Do whatever you want! Go ahead. You’re young. Live life. Enjoy life.” But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. When younger people ask our advice, it’s always good to say it in a way that they see it as a choice, rather than an edict. If we can take our advice and couch them as questions or as choices for people, then it’s easier for young people to understand what they must do. And why is that? Well, because one of the things that even young children learn is, that choices come with consequences. “If you decide to do this, this is going to happen. If you decide to do that, then that’s going to happen.” And so, “Would you rather have this or that happen to you?” Isn’t that what God just did here in Ecclesiastes 11:9? “Whatever you’re thinking about doing, why don’t you try it and see what happens?” That’s what He’s saying. “Just know that for all the choices you make, there is coming a judgment, and there are consequences for the things that we do.” So we have to be smart and think about what’s going to happen down the road as a result of whatever we do. And that is one thing that older people are really strong in, isn’t it? They know what’s going to happen when you do this. That’s what Ron Dart was telling me when he gave me a list of things he would do if he were starting over. “These are the things I would do to get the consequences I want.” Having tried some other things that didn’t work – and some of these were probably on his list to begin with – but very important to be able to tell younger people in such a way that they can receive the information. Questions and choices are good ways to do that.

Okay, intellectual vigor. Moving from that then to redirecting energy to new roles and activities . This is something people in the sixty to seventy-five range have to do. The first one that we want to talk about is grandparenting . Three cheers for grandparenting! A really fun thing to do. And I was thinking about how critical to the health of the church this role is. Maybe we don’t think about that that much, but grandparents can have a huge effect on grandchildren and on their children in parenting their kids. One thing about grandparents is, they’ve had a chance to see their kids grow up and they know what worked and what didn’t. And so they have a measure of wisdom that they didn’t have when they brought their own children up. And they can point out things that did and didn’t work.

The five roles that have been identified about the different styles of grandparenting – that people naturally tend to employ – think about yourself, if you’re a grandparent: one is the formal role of grandparent – interested, but doesn’t actually get involved in parenting the kids. You know, may come for birthdays and Christmas, or whatever – not Christmas for us, but in the world – but probably wouldn’t do much more than baby-sit occasionally – just sort of have the name of grandparent. Then there’s the fun seeker – that would be me – who likes to have fun with the kids. There’s the surrogate parent . That’s the one that steps into the parenting role for one reason or another – either because the parent, while present, isn’t doing a good job, or maybe, the parent is absent. At the school that I work at, there are a lot of grandparents raising grandchildren because of parental abdication or failure, drug involvement, divorce, mental illness, poverty – all kinds of things like that. Then there’s one they call the reservoir of family wisdom . That’s that authoritarian role, where the grandparents see themselves as the ones who know everything about it. And then there’s the distant figure with intermittent involvement – never can count on them – say they’re coming but they don’t show up, say they’ve mailed a gift, but it doesn’t arrive. That kind of thing. Or no contact whatsoever.

We think it’s really important for kids to have their grandparents in their life if at all possible. All research indicates that. We think that that would be…people who are having children need to realize that God is calling their kids and that He wants them, and that part of their responsibility as a parent is to raise a child who will become a part of the church. That’s what God wants for them. That’s part of their job. And one of the best things you can do for that is to have grandparents nearby. Now I know that flies in the face of the way our culture works. You have to follow the work. Sorry, I’m still sticking to that. That’s still true. That’s one of the big problems in our society – that the nuclear family doesn’t really work. There are no parents that don’t need help. And grandparents are a great source of that.

Elaine and I struggle with that somewhat, because our grandchildren live in California . We’re victim to that, too. But – and this is a typical techy approach to try to solve that problem – for our anniversary our children gave us, and bought for themselves, a Web cam so our grandkids can see us on the computer, and we can see them. And they’re about two now. And they can tell who we are on the screen now. And we can carry on conversations about two-year-old kinds of things with them – like Grammy Elaine has glasses. They discovered that. And that’s always a big topic of discussion when we’re on the Web cam. That’s an interesting event there. I think that it’s going to help a little bit. I think when they do see us, they’ll have some familiarity. So that will be good. But it’s not like living three miles away, is it? And they’re fortunate that they do have some grandparents on the other side of the family that do live close.

Okay, the next role that they identified is what they’ve called widowhood . It would include widowers, too. I learned in my counseling program, in studying grieving, that the loss of a loved one is the greatest of pains in life. The loss of a child would generally be considered the worst of these. The loss of a spouse would generally be next. And that would be true for men and women. Now God has quite a bit to say about widows – and not so much about widowers. It’s interesting that research in western society shows that, on average, it appears to be harder for women to cope with the loss of a spouse than it is for men. And one of the reasons is, that widowers tend to remarry, while widows don’t. There’s quite a significant difference in the rate there.

The average woman in America is widowed at fifty-six years of age and lives until she’s seventy-eight. So, the average age of widowhood in America is twenty-two years. And what does she have to do? Well, if she doesn’t remarry, she has to learn to function socially without a spouse. And if you ever talk to single people, you know what that’s like. And financial concerns are also an issue. I thought this was interesting. In the book, it said, “Studies show that more often than not, a woman’s income decreases significantly when her husband dies.” I don’t know why they needed a study to tell us that, but there it is.

Now, why did God build that into His plan? It’s obviously a large part of life for everyone who marries. It’s very seldom that both of us – we and our mate – die at the same time. Well, I think that all these difficult things that God has built into life is so that we can learn that everything – everything in this life – is temporary. Eventually we lose all of our friends. When your friends are in the nursing home in Mount Pocono , and you’re in one in Los Angeles , you don’t get to see them anymore. We lose all of our loved ones, or they lose us. We gradually lose our abilities to communicate, to see, to hear, to think. We lose everything. And the only thing that lasts is what we have become. That goes back to God, doesn’t it? You see, there’s a great deal of spiritual learning that takes place, at this age group, through some of these hard things we have to go through as we gradually lose everything that we had – very difficult.

I watched that with my own mother. After my dad died, she went into decline and lost a lot of her short-term memory. And yet, the one thing that she was clear on – absolutely lucid on – was that she did not want to move anywhere. She didn’t want to go where we were to take care of her. She didn’t want to leave her home. She didn’t want to go into a nursing home. She didn’t want to come live with us. She wanted to stay in her place, because that’s what she knew. When it became impossible to take care of her, we did have to put her in a nursing home. And she got depressed. And it wasn’t too long after that that she died. Of course, she was in such bad shape from a lot of strokes and things that she had to be sedated to keep her from having involuntary speech and actions and things. So it was difficult for her and for us. But I think, for me, the hardest thing was to see that she got depressed. And that was because she wasn’t where she wanted to be, and didn’t know anybody there. It was terrible.

Okay. Leisure activities . This is the next thing that a lot of people in this age group have to think about. We can’t work as hard as we could when we were younger. We have to take more down time. That’s true in some cases. (That’s just what the book said.) I don’t actually know anybody that’s taking more down time and working less at this age. I’m working harder and getting ready to work a lot harder yet, I think. But sometimes people do have to take time off for leisure activities such as four-wheeling and backpacking and important things like that.

I remember in 1994, when I was young, and I was finishing a backpacking trip with friends. The end of the trail was the top of Mount Whitney , which is the tallest peak in the lower forty-eight. And on my way up I met a man coming down who was eighty-five! He was eighty-five years old. As it happened, he saw me sitting on a rock, and thought that would be a good place to take a break, so we talked awhile. His family was with him. He told me that he’d climbed that mountain every year for the last ten years. He started when he was seventy-five. And he’d climbed it every year on his birthday. And I asked him if he was going to do it next year, and he said, “Well, I’ll tell you the same thing I told them last year, ‘We’ll see.’” He said, “At my age, you just never know.” So still vigorous – still vigorous – still alert, but at that age, we are aware that our powers do diminish with age and things can happen.

Another thing they mentioned in the book is physical exercise . For people this age this has become a large part of the life of most older people – mainly because (and the book says this) that they have time. When I was a kid I never saw my parents take any kind of exercise. And then when they retired, they suddenly became very serious walkers. And it was something to do – that they could do together. It was fun. It was good for them. It didn’t cost any money. It contributed to their longevity, I believe. I also believe that if they had built a habit of exercise when they were younger, they might have lived even longer than they did, and my mother might have had a little bit more acuity. So that’s certainly a part of life that a lot of people are thinking about now in old age – is physical exercise. And that’s changed so much in the last fifty years. People in my father’s generation…if you got an urge to exercise, you sat down till it passed. If you weren’t doing something productive, why spend the energy? That was sort of the mentality. But now people realize it’s something good to do, and it has merits all on its own.

Okay, now we get down to the more serious stuff here. Another developmental task is accepting one’s life . You see, by the age of sixty, evidence about our successes and failures in the major tasks of life – like marriage, childrearing and work – have become to accumulate, haven’t they? Have we been successful? How successful? Or have we failed? And how much of a failure? And for most us, by the time we get to this age, we can see both successes and failures in life.

I was talking to a lady in my private practice recently, who’s approaching this age, and she had developed a life-style early on of “letting everyone else have their way to make peace in the family,” she said. And now, after many years of letting her family run over her, she’s very unhappy. See, she’s given up too much of herself. And everybody just takes advantage of her. She does all the cleaning and the cooking and all of the chores, and they just do whatever they want. And her husband has all these hobbies, and she doesn’t have any. She started a business. She’s very intelligent and very talented and very well educated, and yet she hired her son to work with her, and he’s kind of taken over her business and doesn’t listen to anything she says. So she’s resentful and bitter and depressed and unable to reestablish sensible boundaries with her husband and her adult children. She’s realizing that this is a strategy she employed to keep peace and just to get along, and now that she’s older, it’s backfired on her. It wasn’t a strategy that worked long-term. It reduced confrontation early on, but now she has nothing. And so, the way she chose to live her live hasn’t worked for her in the end. So I’ve engaged her in a strategy, or in a discussion, in the weeks following that statement about that strategy she’s employed, and I’m hoping that she’ll gradually work through a way to craft a new one in counseling. And I think that if we continue to talk that she’ll see what she needs to do. She’ll come to it on her own.

I’ve also seen people at this age examine their spiritual experience – their church experience – and throw God off in late adulthood. I’ve seen people just get too tired and just give up. I’ve seen that a lot in the church. And that is a very sad thing. There’s an admonition to those of us who are older. It’s in Ecclesiastes 12, verses 5 through 7. This is a section – very famous section – of the Bible talking about old age. It says:

Ecc. 12:5-7 – Also they are afraid of height and of terrors in the way. And when the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is a burden and desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home and the mourners go about the streets. And then he says, in verse 6, Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken. We’re supposed to hang on to God to the very end, and not give up on Him.

Have you ever noticed, as you get older, you care less about what other people think of you, and what other people do? And you just kind of want to do your own thing? And you speak your mind more? Any people my age notice that about yourselves? Just kind of lay it out there, and if they don’t like it, too bad? Well, some people do that with God. They just kind of get to the point where they don’t care what God thinks either, and they just go their own way, and do what they want to do, and give up on God. And the admonition is, to remember our Creator – not to forget Him.

So this age is a time of great learning for us related to the spiritual choices we’ve made in our lives. It’s too late to go back and undo those things, isn’t it? So what’s the point of it? Well, the point of it is character – so that we can learn from our mistakes for something that’s going to happen next.

Sometimes we look at our lives and we’re pleased, and sometimes we’re not. You know, I’m wondering, belatedly, why I waited so long to leave the church organizations and let that spirit begin to flow. And thinking back, that would definitely be a “do-over” for me. A friend of mine told me that, instead of fretting about what he didn’t do early on, be glad that you have done it now. And he was specifically talking about the change I made last year. And you know, that’s probably pretty good advice.

I also had a good friend, who’s older than I am – and I think he was approaching this age when this happened to him – but he lived a long way off from me. And his wife began calling me periodically and asking me why he was having depression and anger and different moods and things like that. I said, “You would probably know that better than I do.” And she couldn’t at first think of anything. But as time passed, and she kept calling, she said, “I think he’s starting to see some of the weaknesses in our children, and some of the weaknesses in our parenting – that we caused them to be that way inadvertently – and he’s taking it really hard.”

Well, that’s an example of examining your life and seeing the mistakes you’ve made, and not being able to do anything about it. And certainly, everybody who’s been a parent, and has their children grown up to adulthood, certainly can relate to that. Because there is no perfect parent. And there are no perfect children. There are no perfect adults who have been parented by perfect parents. We all have a lot of regrets and we have seen mistakes that we’ve made. And we’ve seen characteristics in our kids that we know we contributed to that are not good. Of course, we also see things that are there because of good things that we did though. We have to come to terms with that. Parenting is, perhaps, the most difficult task and most complicated that we undertake in life.

The fourth and final thing that they pointed out in this textbook, that people in this age have to accomplish developmentally, is to develop a point of view about death . Now we might think that we all have a point of view provided for us by the Bible – you know, “I don’t want you to sorrow as others who have no hope,” said Paul – so therefore none of us are going to sorrow about death or anything like that. Well, if you think that, that would just be way too simple – way too simplistic. To some people, death is something to be resisted to the very end. I’ve seen church people that are like that. And to others, it’s a huge relief, because they’re so sad about the way they lived their life, or because they’re in pain, or because they’re impoverished, or whatever – because they have problems, or because they’re depressed. Other people want to stay alive because they don’t want to leave their mate. They had hoped that their mate would go before them. Different reasons how people think about death. What’s your point of view? How do you think about it? Where are you with that?

So let’s move on now to the developmental crisis of this age. The crisis points are integrity versus despair . And you probably, if you’ve listened carefully to this series, you’ve learned that the way they use these key words – and this crisis point – usually isn’t the way these words are used in general discussion or conversation – so let’s define what they mean by integrity .

Integrity , as used in this context, means to accept the facts of one’s life and to face death without great fear or guilt or trepidation. So integrity, in this context, means to accept the record of events that have occurred in our life without trying to deny some facts while overemphasizing others. In other words, we’ve taken off the rose-colored glasses, and we’re just looking at the way we’ve been and what we’ve done without bias, without defense – looking at our life honestly – not trying to cover up what we’ve done.

Now wouldn’t you say that that’s something that’s vital for us in our perfection? It is, isn’t it? If we can’t be honest at the very end, it’s our last chance to be. The older I get the more I see that God has a hand in all of our lives – that He provides successes and failures for us in order to perfect our character. So that’s what integrity is. Somebody in this age group has to resolve in favor of integrity if they want to be developmentally sound.

The other side of that – the other side of integrity – is despair . In order to experience integrity, an older adult has to face all the failures, the conflicts, the disappointments, as well as their successes, because that’s what personal integrity is – the unvarnished truth. And this is very hard. It’s hard to do this. And so a lot of times people become despairing about this. It was like my friend, who was in his sixties, and he was despairing because of the faults that he saw in his children that he felt responsible for. He wasn’t handling it well, but he was despairing about it.

Another thing that happens to older people is they face a negative pressure from society and, sometimes even family, about getting older. As their abilities diminish, they become less competent, less mobile, more dependent and more needy. People say in society, and I’ve thought this myself, and I think it is true, but it still doesn’t make you feel any different if you’re an older person. I’ve had people say that the death of a child is a tragedy, while the death of somebody who’s older is not as bad because they’ve lived a full life. And there is truth to that, but sometimes, when people say that to older people – especially if it’s family – they feel like the family is ready to let go of them before they’re ready to let go themselves. And that can be a pressure for older people.

Also, as our sight, and our hearing, and our mobility, and our financial resources diminish, we become more isolated. Social contact and closeness with people is one of the things that keeps us from being depressed and despairing. So those are all challenges to us as we start reaching the end of that age group. Are we going to remain true to ourselves, and honest about what happened in our life, or are we going to become despairing and denying and isolated and all these other things?

You know, if we live long, most of the people who were our friends die, our mate dies, and isolation and loneliness become facts of life for us. It’s hard not to despair during those circumstances. So, to maintain a positive attitude in the face of all these things may be the biggest challenge a person ever faces in their entire life – more difficult than anything they faced in parenting, or at work, or even in the church wars that we’ve gone through over the last forty, fifty years.

So retaining integrity in the face of these kinds of powerful challenges is not for sissies. Growing old is a test, isn’t it? Will we give in to despair, or will it be resolved in our life in favor of integrity? How’s it going to be for us? What kind of old person are we going to be?

They also had a section here, which is different from the way they usually handled it, on depression, because despair quite frequently begets depression. And they pointed out that during the teen years depression is a thing that a lot of kids go through. And then as teenagers grow into adulthood, and they have their own identity, and their own power and can do what they want, instead of what everyone else wants them to do, their depression tends to lift. And so, in middle adulthood and young adulthood, you don’t see as much depression as you do in childhood. But then, as people start hitting this age group and later, we start seeing more depression in people, because they’ve kind of gone back to being the children – are having to be taken care, and provided for and helped by other people because they’ve lost a lot of their powers. You think about the rows of elderly people sitting in wheelchairs in nursing homes. It’s depressing to go there. Think what it’s like to live in one of those places. It’s depressing.

Okay. So how does a person in this age group resolve this crisis between integrity and despair? What’s the process by which it’s resolved? The process is introspection. In order for a person to arrive at a sense of integrity, they have to think introspectively about life. We had an exercise today in our Bible study that required introspection. It’s difficult. There’s a lot of really difficult things about this time of life. And how we reminisce determines to a good degree if we’re going to develop integrity or despair.

I thought this was really interesting. They talked about three different kinds of reminiscing that people do. One they called instrumental reminiscence . And that’s thinking about past accomplishments and using what is learned from them to resolve current problems. An example of that would be that sheet of paper that Ron Dart gave me about how he would do his ministry over again, if he were starting over today. He’d thought critically and introspectively about what he had done, and he left out all the things that he did that didn’t work, and he included all the things that did and would. Very healthy to reminisce in this way.

Integrative reminiscence. Using the past to find meaning in the present. And they had a quote here. “When I was a teenager my parents broke up and both remarried. I was very resentful because they did not seem to care about my feelings or needs. But as I grow older and look back” – see, there’s the reminiscing – “I understand that they were really not compatible with each other. They had suffered for many years before their divorce.” Using the past to find meaning in the present. “So I can look back with my new adult powers and I can think differently about that situation than I could when I was a teenager, because I didn’t have the experience I needed to see what they were going through.”

And then the last one they mention is obsessive reminiscence . And that’s the inability to resolve past events and a persistent state of guilt or despair. “My husband died when I was away for two days visiting our friends in the west. He fell in the bathtub and eventually died, because there was no one there to help him. It has been years now, but I still cannot forgive myself for leaving him home alone for two days.” That’s obsessive reminiscence.

What’s the problem here? It’s several things. The first thing is, it’s a strategy of life that’s been accepted and taken by this person, and probably the way they think about a lot of things in their life. And it doesn’t work. And the second thing is, this person can’t forgive herself, and when that happens, and you’re a Christian, that’s called a grace problem, isn’t it? God places us in a protective state called grace. And if He wants to allow us to slip, that’s really not our concern. It’s His. And if He wants to let our mates slips in the tub, He allows those things to happen. If we’re under the grace of God, if we’ve repented of our sins, then it’s like He’s put a hedge about us, and when things do happen, they’re for a reason. They’re to help us. So, in that state, our job is to grieve our weaknesses and the losses we experience, and accept the reality that we’re all in God’s hands during good times and bad ones, and that God is going to see us through and cause everything to work together for good to those who love God.

As we grow older, we get to revisit the powerlessness of youth, but we have with us a wealth of experience. And our job is to deal with it better than we did the first time – as we look back. And it’s in this that God perfects our humility and our patience and our commitment to Him in our lives. Some people are tempted at this point in life to throw off all the good they’ve done and just give up on it because the despair is too great. God tells us that if we do that, we will lose all that good work we’ve done. Other people come to God in their old age to find help to live through that hard time. And God says that people that do that will gain eternal life. So, it’s kind of interesting how that works. Humility and patience are things that God has to take a lifetime to build into us – and commitment as well.

Well, that’s a bit about late adulthood in the end of this series in human development. And after I got done with it, I was thinking, after these ten presentations, what would I want those who heard all ten of them to take away with them? And one thing that stands out to me is this. During the first and the last parts of our life, we need the help of other people if we’re going to develop well. If we’re going to develop as children, and also if we’re going to hit the tape running and develop ourselves to the end and not give into despair, we need the help of other people. And it seems to me that many adults in our self-centered and degenerate society are more focused on meeting their own needs than they are on helping those who are younger and older. And I think many of us in the church have caught the tone from those around us. You know, we can see that everywhere from deciding where we’re going to go to the Feast, to how we’re going to structure Sabbath services, to the kind of socials we have, to the lack of connectedness that we have to younger and older people. If you think about the crises of young and middle adulthood, that is what defines developmental delay for adults – the inability to give and take care of other people. That’s what middle adulthood is for. And I see the crisis we have in our church, and the loss of so many of our children, as a direct result of that failure to focus our energy on helping the younger ones – not just in the family, but at a congregational level. So I would hope that that message came across loud and clear, especially early on in the series.

The second thing I’d hoped to impart is the realization that God has provided wide avenues at each age to help those, who are younger, develop a stronger connection to God. If we know what younger people can learn easily and naturally about God at each age, then our efforts to help them are going to be multiplied many times over because we will be in sync with God’s developmental plan. You know, it’s like trying to teach calculus to a four-year-old. A lot of us are browbeating our teenagers – that they should read the Bible and know the epistles of Paul and all that stuff. That’s not what they’re supposed to be doing at that age. They’ll do that easily and naturally a little bit later. So, if we can just get in sync with what God has done, then things will go a lot better for us. That’s the second thing I hope to impart – to create a hunger for the knowledge that’s necessary to do that.

The third thing I hope to make clear is that congregations can have a powerful effect on the spiritual development of children. We’ve emphasized the family for many years to the exclusion of the role of the congregation. All families need support! And helping other people’s children is serving God in a very pure manner. There’s no political power in it. There’s no control in it – nor do the people who are politically attuned, and who have power in the congregation, even notice your efforts to do that, but God does. He notices. And I’m hoping that all those who love God will hear this series and see an opportunity to do a great good.