As Good As It Gets–A Message To Baby Boom Christians By Tom Stipe

I can still remember my sixth grade graduation and the theme of the principle’s final speech to my fidgety throng. His words sting a little now as I think back, something having to do with, “You have your whole lives ahead of you.”

Three short years later, my Junior High ceremony featured a similar oration; it was a dissertation aimed at pointing out to me, “my bright future just waiting to be lived.”

And then finally came my High School graduation with over 900 again fidgety fellow students enduring the same declaration, “You have your whole lives ahead of you,” this time with the underlying current of–“You better make something of yourselves.”

These pontifications could all be summed up with a “don’t be a loser” subheading.

Some of us went on to college, where we were launched toward the fate of the Young Upward Mobility Professionals or “yuppies” as we were called.  It seemed to me that “yuppiedom” was an approach to life that was based on a philosophy that demanded nothing less than success in any life pursuit or venture.

Before long, the more highly motivated among us began to take their place in the world, hammering out a living in the “post-hippy” landscape of the 70’s and 80’s. The infants born during the post WWII baby boom were adults now. The inventors of rock n’ roll were all grown up, focused and “large and in charge.” There were 78 million of us.

The so-called, “Rock Generation” was the largest people group to ever move through a society. We wrote our own music, made our own movies and owned the arts.  We had the largest selection of the opposite sex to choose our spouses from—more than any other generation that had come before us.  Someone compared us to a cultural “pig in a python.”

We didn’t blend with culture–we were the culture.

With perfectionism and obsession, we used our youth and sheer numbers to build things. We built empires, industries, companies, businesses and more. With careful adherence to details, we invented our own sports, hobbies and manufactured the original equipment to enjoy them.  In the youthful culture that we were establishing; health and fitness rose to the top of our priority lists. We invented “jogging” and “leg warmers.”

Gratefully somewhere near the beginning of all of this, our all-wise God inserted a spiritual revival that the media dubbed the “Jesus Movement.” It was a “spiritual revolution” where many “pre-yuppie” young people found faith in God through Jesus Christ. I was one of the lucky ones who experienced God during the Jesus “deluge” of the era.  We were true believers on the front end of a generation bent on changing the world.

Faith became mixed with the Rock Generations gathering speed, hurdling us toward our future. For many, faith became inextricably connected to the materialism and the exploding economy of the era. This was a strange and sometimes unfortunate combination for young people of faith. We were facing the complexities of life coming at us at the speed of sound.

Jump ahead four decades.

The “rockers” now face their sixties and a new generation has taken their place.

It’s a techno society that many of us may never fully understand. The majority of  “50 and 60 somethings” only receive and make calls on those little “super” computers called cell phones. My thumbs are just too old to “text.”

We are about to enjoy the financial promises of the “seniors discount” and dealing with relentless mail from the AARP. We are engaging in conversations with others our age about every physical malady we possess and surprisingly enough enjoying it.

The economy that waits for our retirement is frightening and unpredictable like a pet lion waiting in the backyard…”Here kitty, kitty.”

Our children have grown to be adults and are making their own decisions with or without our approval. They may never own houses as nice as the ones they grew up in. We, on the other hand, always expected to exceed our parent’s success, but then that was the “yuppie” mantra–“onward and upward.”

Now that 40 years have gone by, the “boomers” have either succeeded or failed in the relentless pursuit of “upward mobility” and success.

We have lived life for better or for worse and are pausing to grade our progress like approaching the end of a semester. It is more than a little threatening. The finish line is in sight and the race has nearly been run.  Now it seems that the only thing left is the inevitable looming question, “How did we do”?

In the 1997 movie, “As Good As It Gets” starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, there is a memorable scene in which Nicholson’s character reinforces the film’s title. Leaving his psychiatrists office, Melvin Udall (Nicholson) passes through a waiting area filled with sullen, self-absorbed patients; then he pauses and asks, “What if this is as good as it gets?” It is a question that he leaves hanging in the air with no obvious answer as he leaves.

What about us? What if this is it? Jesus hasn’t returned yet, although things are looking pretty good for that these days. Life goes on. The future that was ahead of us has arrived. The married life we dreamed of has come and–in some cases–gone.

The perfect children we wanted to raise perfectly are all grown up and are as imperfect as we are. What we set out to be–after the graduation speeches we endured–we have become–or not. The home schooled graduated in their own living rooms and are now enrolled in the real school of life. What if this is as good as it gets?

And what about that Christian life we picked up along the way…

After 40 years of evangelism declaring what God was going to do–“for us”–with little teaching about endurance and trial by fire–we are spoiled “little evangelical” boomers. We are not able to face trouble.

Woefully, it is true, that our pastors and leaders may not have prepared us boomers for the realities of suffering. Pastors have gotten preoccupied with keeping people instead of equipping them and as a result many older believers are not ready to deal with the decline that comes with aging.

We don’t know how to manage failure at life or love. The Jesus, we simply added to our lifestyles, may never have been the “Lord of the Life”–we’ve lived up until now. It could be that the trek through life that defined our generation has turned us into a bunch of self-seeking consumers attempting to buy happiness and fulfillment.

When we can’t get the good life by our own efforts we try to extract it out of other people. With no more rungs to climb on the ladder of success we find ourselves in many cases lonely, miserable and certainly not at the top of our game.

We have enough “barely used” recreational equipment in the garage to support an Olympic team and enough other “stuff” to supply a small country. We don’t listen to music in the car anymore; instead we listen to talk shows.

Many people are disappointed with their lives these days and sometimes these disappointed people blame God for their woes. They often abandon Him and His church.

Remember that piece about faith? You know that often ignored relationship with Jesus that you brought along for this long ride?

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matt 7:24-25 (NKJV)

Where have you built your life? What happens when the floods come?  The “Rock Generation” needs to determine which “Rock” they want to identify with—while paying attention to what the next verse has to say about the ultimate goal in life.

It seems that we all know about heaven but what about NOW?

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 1 Tim 6:6-8 (NKJV)

I believe contentment is the next great goal for us graying “yuppies” because the “Y” in that euphemism is gone and the “U” and the “P” aren’t doing all that well either.

Great gain is being content to love God with all your heart, mind and soul.  It is being content to serve Him with the time, energy and money that you have left on this earth.  It means living peacefully exhibiting a grateful heart for what you have and trusting in Him with what you don’t have. Former “rockers” that we are, we must rise up–proving the Rolling Stones wrong–and “get some satisfaction”.

The “Rock Generation” has had a good run on life and while we may not be ready to drop dead yet–we are facing transitions. We baby boomers have adult children, fading parents, retirement issues, declining health and huge financial challenges. We are redefining marriage in the empty nest and the list of life changes that we will need to survive this transition grows.

In the wake of all this–the bottom line is–we need JESUS more than ever!

And we need fellow believers more than ever. Church membership is proving to be more important to us now, than ever before, because–to be blunt–the need to belong expands at this stage of life.

My point is–albeit slightly different than the point of the movie–if this is truly as good as it gets, we as aging “boomers” still have Jesus, the family of God and each other. And I, for one, can live with that!

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11 thoughts on “As Good As It Gets–A Message To Baby Boom Christians By Tom Stipe

  1. Might be the best article I’ve read this year…and maybe I think so because it spoke directly to where I’m at.

  2. And those coming behind you need you to not just fade off into the distance. We need you to stay engaged, actively making a difference. We need your community, your teaching, your wisdom learned through the years. As the older mentor the younger, the younger will grow older and mentor the still-younger.

  3. Tom, I so resonate with your thinking in this article, especially the statements,

    “When we can’t get the good life by our own efforts we try to extract it out of other people. With no more rungs to climb on the ladder of success we find ourselves in many cases lonely, miserable and certainly not at the top of our game.”

    As a Christian counselor I speak with many baby boom Christians that are stuck in exactly this situation…They are lonely, miserable and discontent and they turn and try to blame others for the lack of the “good life” they expected. It is a tough place to be in and many of us “boomers” ARE having a tough time letting IT go (whatever IT may be–?? job loss, wife loss, money loss, respect loss…). In my opinion, we need to experience our losses, grieve them, take them to Jesus, and move on.

    And you are so right, while enduring the aging and decline that is inevitable, we need the contentment that comes from truly putting our eyes on Jesus–AS WE FINISH THE RACE!

    Thanks for the timely exhortation! You know I will pass it on…

  4. The deluge was something else…. I was a little too young for leadership at that time, I spent many a Saturday nights listening to the bands and you teach.

    So important that we end well. I watching too many in essence become side tracked and hardened as they get older. they jettison their first love and usually pitch the church as well. Jesus is the same yesteday, today and forever. Our situations change, but our response in worship to Him shouldn’t. Thanks for the encouragment.

  5. You definitely pushed my button which says “YES!” when you push it. So true and so sad and so true and so sad and so true and on and on. Yet the answer is to go back to the foundation and see if it is cracking and falling apart, return to our first love, be empowered and enabled to finish well.

  6. Great article…applicable to my generation as well (30 somethings).

    Your most poignant point, IMO…Where do we put our trust? What Foundation is our “house” built on?

    Our 24/7, Media, Money, Consumerism, “Me” Culture has replaced God in many of our lives. When the winds blow…and the waves come…many (myself included in years prior) learned our houses were built on sand. We were playing games…confessing Jesus with our lips…but not building our house on the Rock…the Cornerstone…Jesus. Saying Jesus is Lord…and Believing and Living with Jesus as Lord…are two vastly different things.

    Your generation…my generation…the generation behind us…we all need the “contentment” you speak of. The “Peace” that passes all understanding. Then, when the winds come (and they will and do)…when the waves come (they will and do)…our house will stand firm…on the Rock.

    Some tough years are behind us…and some tougher years are ahead for us…our lives are changing…and will change drastically. Be ready…make sure your house is built on the Rock. Stuff, things, money, position, comfort, even safety…all sand.

    Fear God…not man…not circumstances…keep your eyes on Him…His will be done.

    Thanks for the perspective, the reminders…and the exhortation.

  7. solid, weighty insights. while I’m a younger boomer, I concur that many folks are realizing our american dream pursuits are no different than those of Solomon chronicled in Ecclesiastes, and we would be wise to reform our thinking before we conclude our lives muttering, “vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”

  8. Oden, fil & believe,
    Thanks for hearing my heart in this. It’s amazing how helpful it can be when you preach to yourself.

  9. Pingback: Articles of Interest 04-10-10 | Onward, Forward, Toward...

  10. Tom did you use to play in Calif at Costa Mesa?
    If so I have been looking for the stage coach song Glory bound for ages. If you can help it would be appreciated.
    In his name
    Steve

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