Christianity Today’s March 2019 cover story examined how retirement fits into the Christian vision of faith and work and how assumptions about what retirement looks like are changing for many Americans. We looked at the increasingly diverse ways that Christians are leveraging their post-career years for the good of their families, churches, and communities.
A lot of readers wrote in to express appreciation for covering a topic that really matters to so many, but we also got a fair number of responses that were concerned that our take on retirement was too narrow. One reader, Rodney, summed it up this way:
"Your article 'Saving Retirement' in the March issue was a good summary of the situation facing retirees today. However, most of the examples of retirees doing something purposeful after retirement were people who had held leading positions in their field of work with presumably large salaries. The article definitely needed to portray what some ‘ordinary workers’ have gone on to do."
We agreed with Rodney that there is a much broader picture of post-work life that needs to be acknowledged. Do Christian understandings of work and aging accommodate those who can’t afford to retire?
Rev. Amy Ziettlow, pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Decatur, Illinois, and author, with Naomi Cahn, of Homeward Bound: Modern Families, Elder Care, and Loss, joined theology editor Caleb Lindgren and editor in chief Mark Galli to talk about the hopeful vision for retirement she sees in her working-class church community and her recommendations for how retirement-aged individuals and their churches can best partner with each other during the autumn years.
This episode of Quick to Listen is brought to you in part by Hope for the Lonely. Every week on her new podcast, Hope for the Lonely, Charlotte Donlan examines a different angle of loneliness. You can find Hope for the Lonely on iTunes and learn more at charlottedonlon.com.
This episode of Quick to Listen is brought to you in part by Bloodline, the new book by Skip Heitzig, gives you an up-close view of the cross that reveals God’s ultimate mission to save you from sin’s destruction. Bloodline is available wherever books are sold.
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March 20, 2019 transcription
Caleb Lindgren: So, we've got an exciting show prepared for today, and I'm really excited about it. To introduce the topic, the March issue of CT magazine feature to cover story on how retirement fits into the Christian vision of faith and work and how assumptions about what retirement looks like are changing for many Americans. Our cover story included the increasingly diverse ways that Christians are leveraging their post-career years for the good of their families, churches, and communities.
We received a lot of great feedback from appreciative readers for covering the topic. It seems to really matter to them, and they really appreciated that. But we also got a fair number of responses that were concerned that the way that we were handling retirement was too narrow. I'll just read from one of our pieces of feedback from a reader named Aladino who had this to say: "As a man nearing 60, and a career truck driver, I find this story unrelatable. Almost all of your examples, except for the music teacher, are CFOs, Partners, managing directors, doctors, etc."
And another reader named Rodney summed it up this way: "Your article 'Saving Retirement' in the March issue was a great summary of the situation facing retirees today. However, most of the examples of retirees doing something purposeful after retirement were people who had held leading positions in their field of work with presumably large salaries. The article definitely needed to portray some ordinary workers and what they have gone on to do."
We think this is exactly right, and we thought that Quick to Listen would be a great place to expand that retirement discussion to include those for whom retirement looks quite different, and those for whom maybe even retirement isn't an option. And to help us understand that we've brought on a guest. Mark, would you like to introduce her?
Mark Galli: Yeah, our guest is Amy Ziettlow. She's the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Decatur, Illinois. And with Naomi Kahn, she's the author of Homeward Bound: Modern Families, Elder Care and Loss. Amy has over a decade of experience in hospice care, including serving as a chaplain and also a stint as the COO of the Hospice of Baton Rouge. Welcome, Amy.
Amy Ziettlow: Thanks for having me.
Caleb Lindgren: So, how about an initial gut check, Mark?
Mark Galli: Well the initial gut check on the responses that people gave was a little disheartening, because we have been working really hard as a magazine to be more aware of the class differences in especially our movement, but in the United States in general. Ever since the 2016 election, it's been clear that there are many divisions in our country around especially race, ethnicity, and sometimes gender. But the blind spot we often have is that we don't see class issues, clearly. And even though we've been striving to make our vision better about that, we still sometimes don't see it. So, there was a very helpful set of letters from people and I'm really glad we're having an opportunity to broaden the discussion here.
Caleb Lindgren: Yeah, me too. I had a similar reaction. It was sort of a mixture of like, yes, that's totally right, we should do that, I'm excited to do that. But also, disappointment that we missed that opportunity the first time around. I also was sort of struck by looking at that and thinking like oh, you know the way that I think about what retirement looks like is very much shaped by a whole lot of, almost like fables that sort of get told about like, this is what happens when you when you work a certain amount of time, then you move on to the next thing. And then, even the like counter narratives that we were covering about how retirement doesn't look the way that it used to, and people are approaching that differently—in the talking about encore careers and things like that—even that is shaped by a sort of idealism, assuming that whoever is doing the retiring or moving on to the next stage is stable, comfortable, and with a fairly sizeable income.
Mark Galli: Yep, exactly. So now, those are the people I tend traffic with. Just a personal revelation, I'm nearing this part of life—retirement. So, I've been thinking a lot about it, but think about it and white-collar terms.
Caleb Lindgren: Yeah for sure. Well, let's bring Amy back in because I would love to hear some of your perspective. Amy, you're a pastor and according to your Twitter bio, you consider yourself a Gen Z pastor. But you also mentioned to us when we were talking to you about coming on the show, you have a lot of folks from a variety of different backgrounds in your church. So, what does retirement look like in your congregation?
Amy Ziettlow: Well just to give some context, I think Decatur, Illinois probably looks like many small cities in America. We're probably about three hours south from Chicago, we're in the middle of Illinois, very much a rural area, lots of farmers. We're about an hour west of Champaign, so the University of Illinois is about an hour away, and for Springfield [capital of Illinois], it's 45 minutes away. So, we don't have a lot of commuters from those communities, but many people from our community go there for cultural things and kind of different activities in both Springfield and Champaign. But, here in Decatur, we're a city of about 70,000, and our main source of employment is manufacturing. We're affectionately called the "Soy Capital of America," so much of soybean manufacturing happens here in Decatur. We also have a major Caterpillar plant, manufacturing construction equipment. So, many of the people that are in our congregation are either employed in those industries or are employed by ancillary industries that help support that manufacturing process.
So, it's been very much a learning experience to see what does retirement look like in this community. And I found there's probably several different paths to retirement. When I read the Christianity Today article about retirement, that in that idealized image you all were just discussing and that idea of vacation or leisure for being the defining element of retirement, that resonated more with the 80- and 90-year-olds that I serve. Those are more of the folks that by the time they're in their 80s— should their health be good—they're able to go to Florida for the winter months, and are able to not have to supplement their income with any type of part-time employment, by the time they're in their 80s. And when they go to Florida, they're not necessarily living extravagantly. I think of one couple, Lawrence and his wife, he was a retired postal worker. And they were able to go to Florida every winter, they had a retirement trailer park community there that they were able to rent space there during the winter months, and then would come back here to Decatur in the summer months, and they were able to do that for about 10 years until their health started failing them in their late 80s.
So, it's both a beautiful sign of longevity that many of us can potentially think about living in good health through our 80s, but that element of retirement as leisure, I see it more delayed until those 80s. For 60- and 70-year-olds, I tend to call it a hybrid model, where retirement really means retirement from full-time employment, or I call it like the non-full-time work years. So, that journey looks far more like having to have the necessity to have some type of part-time employment to amplify any pension or retirement savings. Especially if Social Security—they don't start collecting Social Security till 67 or 70, kind of delaying that time of collecting on Social Security. They really need to amplify some of their savings.
The story I think of is a couple in our church, Bob and Connie, they just her both turned 60 this year. And Bob worked for the local power plant for 25 years, and he retired two years ago at 58 and our whole congregation knew that he was counting down to the day when he was eligible for retirement. Because his work was physically taxing, he was in maintenance—highly skilled maintenance—but after 25 years of climbing, crouching, kneeling, really had taken a toll on his body. Even now, he's recovering from his third knee replacement, which just gives a sense of how the taxing that can be on your body. And so, he was counting down to those days when he could retire from the power plant, but he was really honest with, he knew he could not fully retire into being out of any type of employment. So, even as he was planning for that big retirement party, he was already setting up his part-time employment after that. So, he currently works at our local Home Depot. He gets there at 5:00 a.m. and stays there till 10. He loves it because it's quiet, that's when all of the shipments come in, and so he gets on a skid steer and unloads all of the inventory and things for that day, and it's quiet. You know, 'I see the truck full of stuff that I have to unload I get to unload all of it and know when my jobs are all done' and then about 10 a.m. when everybody else starts rolling in, he's able to go home and sort of enjoy the rest of his day. That income helps amplify his time in retirement.
Mark Galli: Well, I was just going to say, I wonder if the one of the situations with the postal workers as well was better government benefits upon retirement than a lot of what we call blue collar workers. The reason I ask is my dad when he retired, he was a he was a part of a grocery clerks' union, and they took very good care of them in his retirement years. So, he didn't have to supplement his income, and he was able to actually retire early. But of course, he was kind of a frugal guy, so that was part of the deal. And it got me to thinking, and thinking about him and other people, with the decline of unions in the last few decades, that's making it harder for a lot of people in terms of retirement. So, I don't know if that applies to the postal worker.
Amy Ziettlow: Right. And Lawrence is now 92. I know for him, although the retirement benefits were good, there was also the fear of how long are these going to need to last and also how to pay for medical treatments and that type of thing. So, I know for him in his 70s, he had employment as a janitor in one of the local schools, which was something that he could do on a part-time basis but could amplify their income during that time. And so then, when they were finally able to say, okay, we're ready, you know, this will be a time of our life when we can go to Florida for the winter months, that really wasn't until their early 80s, when he was like, I can't; some of this physical work is getting a little bit more, or taking more of a toll on my body than I really want it to.
Caleb Lindgren: Yeah, that actually relates to one of the questions I was curious about, which is: for the middle-class and working-class folks in your community, do their concerns facing retirement echo some of the ones that were talked about in the article with the more white-collar folks? Are they concerned about the same things or are there different things that they're thinking about as they're thinking ahead?
Amy Ziettlow: Probably more that sense of “How much money do I really need to live is?” is really important. In terms of feeling more comfortable, having some type of part-time employment. I found it interesting in the article, the sense of even if you do seek part-time employment or an encore profession vocation, that that should be one of significance. So, I started thinking about the folks in the pews here in Decatur and realizing I think Bob would even tell you, he's a pretty funny guy, like 'look my work at Home Depot is not significant.' You know, it does draw on some of his skills some of his background in terms of his expertise in life, but he would say this is a necessity, and not necessarily something he would say he feels called to do in the sense of other people who find ways to do maybe more what they might consider more significant work. However, having that part-time employment allows him to do other significant things, so it's more of a means to an end.
And I find for folks like Bob—and we have many kind of recently retired late 60s, mid-60s folks in our congregation—it both frees up time for them to serve more at church and be more actively involved in sort of the day-to-day maintenance and care for the church—which isn't necessarily exciting, but is really necessary in terms of just cleaning, and yard work, and general maintenance for the church— but also clears up space for family caregiving. And that was one piece, it's sort of alluded to in the article, but I think that is far more going to be the norm that 60- and 70-year-olds, because we are living longer and in better health, their parents are in their 80s and 90s and are now just at the point where their health is starting to decline. Maybe their cognitive abilities are starting to decline.
I know for Bob in the last year, he and his wife have moved his stepfather—who was living in St. Louis— they moved his stepfather Matthew into their home. Because I started noticing at Christmas about a year ago that he was starting to sort of mix up his money, starting to be more forgetful, and started going to some medical appointments with him and he's in the early stages of dementia. And Bob's honest. He said, you know, if I were working full time, he doesn't think he would have been able to consider moving his stepfather in with him. But that's really what's necessary. His stepfather doesn't have any other family, Bob's mom died about six years ago, so it's just his stepfather. And Bob said, you know, it's me; I'm the only candidate to really support him. Or he's going to be out on the street, or eventually going to have to be on Medicaid and being a nursing home. But he's really still ambulatory and doesn't really need nursing care yet, so both he and his wife kind of just felt that was really their call, that that's where they're finding significance is being able to have his stepfather at the home. And based on the trajectory of dementia, Bob's honest, he's like look, he could be with us for 10 more years, and it's probably only going to get more care-intensive as the disease progresses. But, being able to have part-time employment, being able to retire from a full-time physically taxing, mentally taxing, type of job, It opens up a space for him to do that more significant work.
Mark Galli: I wonder if the classic Lutheran theology of work, vocation, plays into this? Because the thing I've always appreciated about it isn't like that the work you do to earn money has to be a life calling and a divine calling in the sense. Like Luther said, the job of a shoemaker is to make really good shoes. And for Bob and Home Depot, his job there is to just make sure the store is run efficiently as possible when he's there, and then he also has other things to do for the Lord.
Amy Ziettlow: Definitely. I think that theological perspective of vocation—and I love when Luther will say, even changing diapers is a way to serve the Lord, and with three kids of my own I said, Amen! Mrs. Luther was fortunate to have a husband that that understood the importance of changing diapers has a God-given vocation. But yes, I think that's definitely true, of seeing vocation in a multi-faceted way. As both paid employment, but also family work as definitely that vocation.
Mark Galli: I should warn readers, it's probably not for a couple years, but I am thinking about retirement. So, the other factor is that has not been expressed yet explicitly is that men and women entering into retirement age, they do not—many of them at least traditionally—do not want to depend on their children. Is that still a phenomenon, or is that slowly changing with the new realities of the world we face? In your experience.
Amy Ziettlow: Yes, in my experience, our elders definitely want to maintain their independence for as long as possible, and also not be a burden on their children and grandchildren. Now living longer, many of our 80- and 90-year-olds are very close to their grandchildren, and are helping raise great-grandchildren, which is just amazing. We have several of those families in our congregation. And to me, that's really where the church comes into play.
For example, Lawrence who I mentioned earlier, the retired postal worker and he and his wife had been able to move back and forth between Florida, his wife died eight years ago, and he now lives in assisted-living facility. Both of his daughters, who are getting close to retirement age, are both in the Chicago area. And as his pastor, I see him once a month, I bring communion and do communion services with him and the folks in his assisted living facility. He's very well organized. He knows even though I'm not legally his power of attorney, should something happen the assisted-living facility knows that they will call me, and that they will be calling the daughters at the same time, but there are three and a half hours away. So, if something needs to happen, I know I'm going to be one of the first people to go and be in conversation. I know his daughters now pretty well, because we've had some health crisis happen. And so, to help facilitate that as his pastor, and I can only for see that growing.
We're going through a visioning process with our congregation right now, and wanting to remind people that part of our outreach and pastoral care responsibilities as a congregation are to ensure that our 80- and 90-year-olds can continue to live flourishing lives that have meaning and are continuing to live out vocations, whatever that might be. And that that will involve some of these sort of concrete decision-making roles, bringing meals, being able to come over and change light bulbs. We're really going to have to step up because for a lot of our elders, either they don't have children or their children live hours away, or states away. So, we're really the first-line of defense in terms of their family.
The other piece, I think for the church too, that we haven't talked about is those folks that are unable to retire. And because of either their work history, perhaps they've been out of paid employment because they've been caregivers, either for young children, caregivers for older adults, or simply have had jobs that just have not produced enough retirement income in order to reach the type of idealized retirement we've been talking about. And that's where a greater dependence and awareness of the social safety net comes into play. And, this was especially true in Baton Rouge, and a lot of the work we did with hospice families is helping families understand all of the different resources they could access through society institutions, in terms of Medicaid for health care, Medicaid for room and board should they need nursing assistants, being able to access the Social Security disability benefit.
And I know as a pastor, that when I was going through seminary that was not something that I ever learned or thought that I might need to know as a pastor, but I'm finding as we're becoming an aging society, that is going to be an element that the church can really be a resource for—to better understand what are the senior services in our area, what are the senior activities and senior day centers that are available. Especially with mobility and transportation, I find that's one role that our younger generation can play for our older generation, in terms of driving them to church, if they know that they have a doctor's appointment, being able to take off a morning from work to be able to drive Mabel to her doctor's appointment and get her home. And that even just simple things like a ride once a month can be the deciding factor between an 82-year-old remaining independent and her home or having to move into a nursing home.
And so, raising that awareness in our congregations of sort of understanding what the wishes are of our older generation, and then what roles we can actively play in some concrete ways to make that happen.
Caleb Lindgren: Yeah, I'm really glad that you talked about that because one of the things that I was interested to talk to you about was what are the responsibilities of churches in supporting people in the sort of autumn years and beyond. And I think you answered that really well.
I also want to talk about sort of the other side of the coin of that. We did an article a while ago on folks with disabilities, and the thing that I appreciated the most about it was that it was looking at the ways that those people serve and benefit the church, and the ways that they bring something unique and valuable that the church needs, in a way that oftentimes the church tends to approach folks with disabilities from a lens of like 'What help do you need? How do we serve you?' And it was instead 'how do they serve us as members of the church?' And that was a really great perspective. And I wondered if we could sort of do that same move with the folks at retirement age, whether they're able to retire or not. And what are the benefits that you see that folks at that stage bring to the church that we as a church community need?
Amy Ziettlow: Definitely time. Time and experience. Both wisdom—that comes out in the article of good deal, I think. Scripturally, we see elders are both sources of wisdom. But I love it in scripture, we see Elders are called to pay play prophetic roles. One of my favorite stories is in Luke 2 when Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple to be dedicated. And the first two people that approach them are elders. You have Simeon, who has been promised by the Holy Spirit that he'll see the Messiah before his death, and he gravitates right to Jesus and is able to proclaim that and bless this family, and will say words to Mary that she'll ponder for the rest of her life about Jesus's future. And then you have Anna, who is 82 and has been living in the temple since being widowed at a younger age, and she also recognizes the Messiah in Jesus and begins preaching. I love that our first preacher in Luke's gospel happens to be an 82-year-old woman in the temple! But I think what we see in that piece is even then, the temple was intended to be a place of safety and security for the most vulnerable, that even as a widow and a younger age that put her very much in a vulnerable class. And so, the temple became a place for her to thrive and flourish. And that it was important for the community to invest in making all of the elements of the temple accessible to all people, and that was just expected of them.
Mark Galli: I do remember as a young man visiting a nursing home, and the one thing that struck me about the guests that were still mentally alert, was how frank they were about things. And I think there's something about getting to that age, where you're not worried about the security of your job, you're less and less worried about what people think and how you're going to impress people. And you're able to say frankly what you think's going on, and I think that is a real gift of the of the later years of life that the church could use.
Amy Ziettlow: Definitely. Our retired and older members are the folks I go to first with my ideas. We have an 82-year-old woman who's a matriarch and one of our charter members of the congregation, and she's currently serving her 7th term on our Council of Elders, and she's the person I go to first with any ideas, or visions, or you know, this committee is thinking about this new project. And I can tell immediately from her facial expressions if she thinks this something we should continue to pursue or pause maybe we need to rethink that. But yes, definitely. I know as a pastor, those are the folks I go to for their honest feedback, and they're also very encouraging. I mean, they love the church and they see the power of the intergenerational nature of church. I'm often struck that the church is often the one place that you have infants and toddlers, and teenagers, and 80-year-olds and 70-year-olds, all in one place. And who are united by the gospel and not by any common interests. You know, it's not a club, but we're all there and we all equally believe that the infant holds as much value in God's kingdom as the 97-year-old. And that God's working and speaking, the Holy Spirit's working in all of their lives.
I think theologically, I often come back to the Ten Commandments. I know that was one kind of question, how does the church ground how we honor all ages? And that commandment to honor our fathers and mothers is really critical. And both of Naomi and I, in our book Homeward Bound, we were looking at modern families because families have changed so much. In terms of divorce, remarriage, single parents—I think Pew research now says one in four Americans has some step-kin in their family system. And so, we really wondered, does the honor commandment still hold? As our families change, do younger generations still feel that commandment to honor our elders and honor the people who we call parents still applies to them? And it was beautiful. We interviewed many, many people in Baton Rouge, and we learned that that's true. Coming from the church, it didn't totally surprise me, but it was really helpful to see how our younger generations truly want to honor our older generations. And that may come through practical support, but may also just come through emotional support, or respecting their viewpoints in life, but definitely see them, as you were just saying Caleb, not as charity, but as partnership. That this is intergenerational reciprocal care that's happening, and that those who are honoring an elder are receiving as much as they are giving. So, it's truly ministry and not a one-way street.
Mark Galli: Yeah, the interesting thing about the Ten Commandments that we sometimes forget about, is we tend to think all the Commandments are for adults, except for that one. That one's for children. When actually, the whole Ten Commandments are for adults, which means honoring your parents after you're an adult and you have your own family. So, I think that brings a new dimension to it.
The other thing that I think that elders bring—and this is kind of counterintuitive, but I don't think you'll disagree—it gives the younger generation an opportunity to serve sacrificially, and to actually bear another person's burden. And that is actually a gift we give one another. Because none of us grow spiritually unless we learn to sacrifice and bear burdens. And this is one of the reasons I am not—and maybe I'm unusual—but I'm not I'm not particularly concerned about having to depend on my children at some point, because I think it'll be really good for them. I mean, it was really good for me to have to care for my father. My mother died suddenly, so that there wasn't an issue, but it was really good for me. It took a lot out of me, but it also built something into me, and I do think that that's a counterintuitive gift, that gift of service.
Caleb Lindgren: I would agree with that. I've been watching my parents manage their parents as they get older, and like managing the estate and lots of different discussions and the desire for different levels of autonomy and independence versus what's reasonable. The whole process has been refining for everybody involved in a really fascinating way to watch. I'm a little bit more on the sidelines of that, mostly because they really want to do it as, you know, parents and children, and as a grandchild, I think I have less direct involvement. But I get to watch it happen, and I think that's really incredible.
And then in the context of churches—and I love some of the stories you were telling Amy, about how there are people that are located in your community with children that are nearby, but not quite close enough to be right there something happens, and so it's the church that kind of is family and is the one that is able to be present and having that sort of network. No matter your age, I think is really, really important to be able to serve one another that way. Another thing I appreciate a lot about elders in the church is the level of investment that they can give. And I think sometimes that comes in the form of monetary investment if somebody is wealthy, but I think it's also the level of investment of time and energy, which you alluded to earlier, and then also the level of investment of how much care is put into the actions and the activities and the commitments that are made.
Again, I'm thinking of my grandparents who for years and years and years were involved in the running of their United Methodist Church in California, and they were very committed to it and were sort of the glue during a pastoral transition. And they were both busy, working folks at the time, even into their late 70s, early 80s, but it was very important to them to commit and to be deeply involved in what was going on in a way that I think I don't see quite as often from younger generations. And it's not because we can't or we won't, but it's just because there's a recognition of the value of that, and the amount of longevity spent in a community sort of ties you to it in a way that's really beautiful, and I see that in the church that I attend right now. And as a younger person, I need to see that. I need to see what that means.
Amy Ziettlow: Well I wonder too, if it has something to do with location. And I didn't grow up in a small town, I grew up in Tulsa Oklahoma, but I find definitely—granted Decatur's more of a small city—but I find that here, there are multiple generations that are still living within the area. And so that there is more of an opportunity to see the witness of your grandparents, or your great-grandparents, and the investment that they've made in the church. I definitely see our younger generation being inspired by that, and then trying to balance time-wise how they can wisely invest their time in church, with balancing their full-time employment.
I think the word that came to my mind too, as you were talking Mark about the role of learning sacrificial giving, is also that awareness of the precarity of late-life, that as we age it can be a very kind of risky time both physically, financially, also emotionally. And I think as churches, as younger generations see those in their pews who are active and are just more mindful of some of that trajectory of how just a fall can completely derail the next four months for an 85-year-old. That element of being sensitive to that is really big, and that we have an important role as younger generations in supporting them.
I often think of—my favorite book in the Bible is Ruth, and the role that Ruth plays for her older mother-in-law Naomi—that that precarity of life based on many of our older members are grieving friends who died, spouses who died, church members who died. Both grief, as well as declining physical abilities, can really tempt us to bitterness. There's a moment when after all of their spouses died, and Naomi decides to move back home from Moab, and she says 'Look, I'm changing my name to "Bitter." Like you can just call me "Bitter" from now on.' And thankfully, Ruth sees in her mother-in-law that that doesn't have to be the way, and the only way to push against that bitterness is from her investment in her mother-in-law, and that covenant to say 'I'm not going to leave you, I'm going to go with you, and we're going to we're going to figure this out together,' and that the path for Naomi finding the joy, and finding the beauty of her season of life, really came through that investment and choices that Ruth made for her—both in terms of providing for her financially, but also providing emotional support as her family. So that story always really inspires me, and I think speaks to a lot of the people in our congregation about why we would do that. That it is a risky time.
Mark Galli: Yeah, that'll preach, that's good.
Caleb Lindgren: And it's beautiful too, because that's the pathway of blessing that God uses to bless the nations beyond that. I mean, you have Ruth included in the genealogy of Jesus, and it's her investment and connection to, and commitment to Naomi throughout that transition that is the vehicle that God uses, which I think is beautiful. There's something you just mentioned also about the precariousness of that age, and for me when I was in college, I spent a summer working on my grandfather's orange orchard. And we spent a lot of time together, and one of the things we did every week was go to hang out with his tractor club, and one of the things that struck me as like a—I was probably 19 or 20 at the time, and you know hanging out with a bunch of octogenarians who love old tractors— that just the amount of time spent discussing death, and like difficult health scenarios, which is a young person like was completely foreign to me, and I needed to hear that. I needed to see that like life involves a lot of death, and involves a lot of sickness, and involves a lot of suffering in a lot of different discrete way.
And that doesn't necessarily make it morbid, or depressing, but being made to think about those things and to walk with those guys through all the difficulties. We had a couple members of the club pass away during that summer. And that wasn't a church, but the communal aspect of that in the way that they sort of held each other up through those times was really—it impressed upon me how much I was sort of generationally isolated, and how much I benefited from being able to see them walk through that and how to do it right and sometimes how to do it wrong.
Amy Ziettlow: I know for meet too, Caleb, when I've had experiences like that it's sometimes come through nursing home or from a relative. Also, that awareness of, we have an idol sometimes of ableism, and I definitely fall prey to it. I definitely would just looking through my Facebook feed see that we can fall prey to worshiping our abilities—physical abilities, mental abilities, work, you know, whatever that might be—and that it really throws us when those may fail, right? Or we go through a time of difficulty. And watching elders find ways of resilience, is so inspiring to remind us that it is an idol. God loves us regardless of what our abilities are.
I love the story and Mark 2, with the friends who bring the paralyzed man to Jesus and have to dig through the roof in order to get him to Jesus, and even as a preacher, I always focus on the moment when the man gets up and walks and takes his mat home. But then I'm always pulled back when I realized wait, he actually came to Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, which Jesus gives him. And Jesus only heals him, with the ability to walk, after the Pharisees start questioning His ability to forgive sins. And that always pulls me up short to say, 'Oh Amy, there it is again! Look how you tend to focus on that experience of physical healing, when the man who came to Jesus was completely whole as he was.' Jesus really could heal him physically also, but he didn't necessarily he didn't come to Jesus for that.
Caleb Lindgren: Thanks so much, Amy for joining us today. It's been really great to talk about this with you, and I'm really appreciative of your wisdom and experience on this topic.
Mark Galli: And the way you stitched in Biblical theology; I think that's a really important aspect for us to keep in mind.