We were at a family gathering when my cousin Millie’s two sons (giant oak trees) pointed to a chair and said, “Doña please sit”. Doña I repeated, did he just call me Doña? I’m not old why would he call me Doña? This term of Doña (Spanish title) was first used as respect for the head of a landowner (Don) and this is the feminine form. It has evolved to be a term of respect for those who are older.
My cousin Millie raised two sons with the knowledge that respect needed to be shown for those who were their elders, even if I was horrified to be thought of as old! In the Torah portion Kedoshim, this whole experience is depicted in Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.”
At the age of 69 I have finally accepted that I am a “grayhead” even though I dye my hair faithfully. However, even though I’m a grayhead I never studied what the bible says about my responsibilities. Here are a few scriptures that were helpful to me:
- Deuteronomy 32:7, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you.” This verse is from the Song of Moses and it is his cry to the Jewish people not to act corruptly but, to remember Gods faithfulness. In order to walk as God desires us to walk Moses is encouraging those that are younger to ask your parents, your grey heads, to tell the story of God’s faithfulness to us. I find this so interesting because there is a reciprocity in this verse. The younger is told to ask and the elder is told to inform. So many times in our culture we are divided. The older people feel as if their opinions don’t matter, their experiences aren’t important, and they feel as if they have nothing to contribute. Younger people feel as if the experiences of the grayheads are not relevant, as if their voices aren’t heard and their new ideas aren’t being considered. The fact is that both working together can accomplish and learn much from each other. We have to appreciate and cherish what each brings to the table.
- Psalm 71:17-18, “O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.” One of the things that “greyheads” do is that they think that there is not much to receive from a younger person, but, notice that it says, “You have taught me from my youth”. Even though a person is young they also are being taught by the Lord! In this verse the older person states that they desire to “declare Your strength and power to this generation”. Those of us that are older have a responsibility to declare God’s strength and power to encourage the younger. We have stories that we can tell of His faithfulness, and we can demonstrate through our integrity and actions that we are walking the faith. There is not perfection in our walk, so we must always be open to correction and discipline. By being vulnerable and transparent we create an atmosphere where both groups can engage with one another.
- 1 Peter 5:5, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’.” This verse is a key towards success in many areas of our lives, humility. When we “clothe ourselves in humility toward one another” we can work out our differences, and extend grace and mercy to one another. When we work together as God has beautifully designed, we can accomplish so much in our relationships, families, congregations, and work environments.
Do you have a close relationship with a grayhead in your life? Do you have a close relationship with a younger person in your life? If you don’t, I encourage you to ask God to bring them into your life as you will find your life enriched by the relationship!