Y is for “Youth”

This is an entry in the “Acrostic Contemplations.

YHWH – See J – Jahwe

Youth is wasted on the young. That’s the saying, anyway. The assumption is that the young do not know yet how carefree and joyful that time of life is, so they cannot appreciate it fully. It seems to me that only they can fully experience that time of life precisely because they do not know how rare such gladness can be in life. If, as children, we had some sense of the challenges, hardship, and sorrows that life would bring, would we really be able to abandon ourselves to the simple joys of splashing in a gully on a rainy day, or would not the black clouds on the horizon dim the light of the morning sun? 

When I consider our children, I think of the joy of their childhood, the joy they found in games, in playing in the rain, in learning new things, and seeing the world for the first time. Of course, I cannot ignore the fact that Mack’s youth was cut short and his death dramatically colored our daughter’s teenage years. When I reflect upon my own childhood, I know there were times of joy and simple fun, but I see it through a haze of bullying and the sense of not belonging, with the pong of sickness hanging over it all. Of course, there are millions of children around the world and throughout history whose youngest years are marked by loss, starvation, violence, and sorrow. Youth is not unqualified joy for anyone. 

Yet there is a quality of the faith and trust of a child that is to be celebrated and emulated. “Truly I tell you,” says Jesus, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15) How does a little child receive the kingdom of God? Openly and without reservation, as a gift freely given it is joyfully received. As an adult, when someone offers us some gift, be it a token or an opportunity, we might well wonder what the giver receives in turn. Experience might have conditioned us to consider that rarely is something offered without the expectation of some compensation. Indeed, while we are to joyfully and freely accept the gift God has given us, Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him. Yet like a child taking the hand of her mother or father in the confidence that they will lead them well and rightly, following Jesus is a faithful act of trust. 

While the experience of children is not unalloyed joy, youth is more often than not also a time of vigor and vitality of body. There is a youthfulness of spirit and mind that paradoxically can come only after years of experience and reflection. It is only now, after hardship and suffering in my own life and an awareness that many experience far greater privations, that I have the spiritual and emotional resilience that parallels the physical strength of my younger days. As the body has declined, thankfully at a relatively low rate and shallow curve, my spirit has strengthened. It has required reflection and resilience. It is not the result simply of surviving the challenges and hardships. Those experiences have only proved beneficial upon examination, but then they become the reserves of strength and the reflexes of wisdom that I can draw upon in times conflict.

Youth is not wasted on the young, nor is it solely their domain. We can recover the faith and trust of the young even as we become more lithe and agile in spirit and confidence in God through the examined experience of life. 

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