When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.”
“I will do as you say,” he said. Genesis 47:29-30
I believe it was Will Rogers who came up with these four stages of life: First we are our parents’ child, then we are our child’s parent, then we are our parents’ parent, then we are our child’s child. Right in the middle of those stages, there is a life stage, a generation (if you will), referred to as the “sandwich generation”. It is that life stage where you find yourself not only still parenting your children, but also being a caregiver to aging parents. That is where Joseph found himself in Genesis 47-50. He was a father to two sons born to him in Egypt, while at the same time being called upon to honor his dying father’s heritage. I am grateful to God that I have two healthy parents and have not quite arrived at that sandwich stage (and I’m not sure either of my parents would ever permit me to), but I can only imagine it is wrought with difficulties and tensions.
It seems that having our focus divided between raising a new generation into adulthood and, at the same, honoring an older generation is a real challenge. Then again, as a church leader you already know that. The sandwich illustration, you see, is a perpetual life stage for every local church…always raising up new leaders and …
Broken relationships are like infections, they only get worse with time, and the consequences can be devastating.
They almost always start the same way. There are hurt feelings which go unaddressed. Maybe there was bad behavior involved, or maybe there was just an oversight. Maybe there was no wrong doing at all. But feelings got hurt and were left that way with no meaningful attempt to deal with them. The injured person tries to ignore the pain or tries to hurt the other person in return, but the pain itself is left to fester, much like leaving an infection unattended. Very soon after that, the relationship is broken.
But like the infection, the damage then is only beginning. There are actual stages of brokenness in the relationship. They can be identified, even measured to some extent. There is a common progression, a typical stage-by-stage process which every broken relationship goes through. The stages represent some clear “red flags” which I can use to check myself. When I see these things happening in me, I can know I have crossed a line and need to do something about it. Depending on the person and the circumstances, some may go through the stages quickly, and others more slowly. But when my relationship with you breaks,the progression is fairly predictable:
Stage 1: “Otherization” – You determine that I am no longer “one of you”. I am suddenly different. I have a different character, a different essence. This represents a distinct change in “us”. You “otherize” me when you suddenly choose to focus on what is different and you choose to ignore all our history which may show otherwise. Maybe this distancing is just a defense mechanism, or maybe it is a conscious choice. Either way, it is taking a step …