The emotion of Bruce's headlines
Headlines evoke emotions in us. They are designed to trigger responses that make us go to the next level with the story---read on, turn the page, click the icon. Trouble is, we all read them through different lenses. Take the Bruce Jenner headlines for example. One sees disgust, another courage. A nod of agreement here, a tch tch of disbelief there. It's earth shattering and deplorable all at once. For me it's just sad.
Reading past one of the headlines I discovered that Bruce Jenner is one day younger than me. Though raised miles and social spheres apart we were a part of that same boomer surprise that is now confounding all the demographers. You can pick up his resume on Google and you'll have to surf for mine. He's worth $100,000,000, has a cabinet full of gold medals, has lived among the rich and famous, been on magazine covers, married three times, and now has become the darling of social liberals. Since I don't know him I'd best not make character comments or speak to the background data that's driving all the attention. The only thing that is obvious to me is that he's a sixty-five year old who doesn't know who he is. And, that is sad. To experience that much of life and have no identity moves me deeply.
It may be the ethos of the boomer cohort, my blood brothers and sisters. Suddenly we're the Social Security set and have our own personal Medicare card. Some of us are fighting it tooth and nail but for the most part we're finding a new life in retirement or next chapters. We were the pioneers of dropping out, divorce, addictions, therapy, the sexual revolution, equality, a long list of diversions and a few perversions to boot. But, now, with grandchildren and a 401K we're settling down for the final season. And, then there's Bruce. At the threshold of this phase he doesn't know who he is. That is sad.
There's been mention of his faith and the church that he and his wife have supported. There's some fruit issues for me in this area but then again I've got an extra forty pounds that may raise questions among people with stones in their hands. There's something here, however. James wrote about the person who is a hearer of the word and not a doer of it. It may be a keen observation about my boomer cohort, the distinction between hearers and doers. Most of us were raised in happy days America, with at least some exposure to the "one nation under God" tag that used to define us. School started with the Pledge of Allegiance and a morning prayer. Billy Graham was on TV every week. Christian faith wasn't in a closet then. So we heard about it and most of us even practiced it at some level. James wrote...
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks
intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and
at once forgets what he was like.
Few of us, especially in the south, experienced the fifties and sixties without some exposure to Christian truth. But, hearing and doing aren't synonyms.
So, boom! Here are our gang crossing into this new world and we don't know who we are. All the stuff we've accumulated, our "I love me" walls, the accomplishments, the news paper headlines in that drawer of mementos, and the rest of the debris from the journey doesn't identify us at all. We're in the final lap and we don't know who we are. And, of all the emotions---hot flashes, shortness of breath, memory lapses, hearing tunnels---it's just sad.
So, don't base life on emotions. As a Christian evangelical minister the identity thing isn't such a mystery and isn't emotional anyway. There's truth. Jesus said, "...without me you can do nothing..." (John 15:5), and I believe it. Just the same, genuine identity isn't about hearing a sermon every once in a while or celebrating Christmas and Easter. There's the rest of that John 15 verse, "...whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit...". No, it's a relationship, an abiding, continuing relationship that makes genuine identity possible. Evidently Bruce isn't there...along with many other boomers as well.
So, there is joy. It's not circumstantial or momentary or trans- anything. It is the result of this relationship that gives us identity and helps us shine in a world that desperately needs some light.