When You Wake Up and You’re the Oldest In the Room

No one announced it. 

One day I woke up and I was the oldest in the room! It happened just like that.   

My brain didn’t reflect my age. I still thought in terms of “What am I going to DO with my life?”

Not, “What DID I do with my life?” 

I was sitting with some women whom I considered my peers, when the assault of questions was fired: “When you were younger, how DID you deal with that? When your kids were smaller, how DID you do this?” 

All the “DID” words added up and I calculated that I was a decade older than them.  

It didn’t help that one of my friends said, “We’re so thankful for you. Since our parents aren’t here, it’s like you’re my kids fill-in-grandparent.” (I don’t even have grandchildren and still have a child at home, thank you very much!)

So…what do you do when you wake up and you’re the oldest in the room?

1. Own it! You’ve got the goods, so work it! Yes, your bag of tricks and life stories are all a mess. No, you don’t have it all figured out. But isn’t that the point? You’ve journeyed this far without having it all figured out. Be honest, you’ve failed and succeeded. Lead them to discern the lies of the enemy in their life-journey and share the hard ways you discovered truth. 

2. Ask Questions, but Don’t Give Away All the answers. Start conversations by asking questions that probe real life. You know what they are, because you wrestled with the same life-issues. Jesus did this. He asked questions to reveal the heart, but He let them answer or think about it. In other words, you can lead and influence without being a know-it-all. By asking questions you can lead them to open their heart and discover God without preaching a sermon. 

3. Be a Safe Place to Process Life. Many people are deficient in the ability to process life. They don’t know how to find God in the middle of their circumstances. Creating a safe place to process life fosters an atmosphere of discipleship. It’s an invitation to download thoughts, feelings and ask questions without fear of being judged. Listening is the key ingredient to creating a safe atmosphere. 

4. Communicate that you want to learn from them. Howard Hendrix said, “Leaders are incurable learners.” Not only do generations above us have things to teach us, but also the generations below us. They are full of creative ideas and solutions. They have energy, new direction and a freshness that is contagious!  

5. Be a contextual-izer.  Being in one generation is no reason not to be contextual to the next generation. “Contextual” is a missionary word that simply means learn the culture and speak the language in a way that can be understood and accepted. A sure way NOT to do this, is to pound your fist and tell people how it used to be in the “good ole’ days. It doesn’t mean you fake “cool” either. The value of your life experience is incredible! If life wisdom isn’t expressed in a way that the next generation can understand it, then the words are only wisdom to the teacher.

So…..what do you do when you wake up and you’re the oldest in the room? You embrace it.

Published September 8, 2014