Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Youth: Do You Love Them Or Kill Them?

George Bernard Shaw reportedly said "Youth is wasted on the young." This was probably more a reflection on his own state of mind than on the condition of the youth during his day. It is not easy to be young, filled with ideas and energy but lacking experience and wisdom. It is a tough and awkward time of life as a little bit of knowledge gets them into a lot of trouble. Those who are older and wiser are suppose to have wisdom and patience while helping youth grow and mature but that is often a difficult task with some youth because sometimes a bit of arrogance can get in the way.

Unfortunately it takes a lot of wisdom to understand the stations of life, that there are stages and purposes for each stage. It can be even harder when the elders do not possess the maturity they should have in helping these youth to become who they have been called to be. Often there is too much criticism, not enough patience, far too little understanding and almost very little forgiveness. Is it any wonder that our youth find it hard to respect the elders? Nonetheless, that is one of the things they need to come to understand:

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. (1 Peter 5:5)

By "older" Peter is implying those who are more knowledgeable and wiser. By "knowledge" I do not mean according to academics but according to their knowledge and experience of life. Peter says, "in the same way". Do not let this throw you off. He is referring to what he just wrote to the elders; in the same way they have the responsibility to love and help you, you have the responsibility to listen. Sometimes it can be an uneasy co-existence as each group learns their roles and responsibility. God knows this and inspired Peter to write to everyone concerned:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
   "God opposes the proud
      but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:5b-7)

In order for elders to teach and guide and in order for youth to learn and to grow it takes a lot of humility for both groups. Sometimes the arrogance of youth can be hard to take, especially if you let pride and position get in the way. However, with the humble heart of a servant you realize it is not about you and everything about the youth and their relationship with God. In the same way, as the youth gain maturity, it takes a lot of humility to stay submitted to any authority, gladly accepting their input in your life. It takes humility to realize you can't do it on your own, that you need godly leaders and friends to help you along the way; not people to tell you want to do but people who will give you a nudge in the right direction.

It may seem odd that Peter would include anxiety in this subject but then again there is a lot of anxiety among youth and among the elderly as they try to handle the youth who appear to be wondering off course. We need to remember who the Master-Shepherd is and stop pretending that it all depends on us. For the youth who are anxious about life and their future, just relax, God has it all under control. As long as you are seeking his will and not running off with your own plans, you will do well. He loves you and he has planned great things for you. For the elders who are anxious over the foolish mistakes of the youth, remember, you were once there. God is going to do for them the same thing he did for you. Sometimes they have to get skinned knees and bloody noses to learn. You are not there to surround them with pillows but instead to to tend to their wounds.

It can be a hard go as it has always been through the years as youth act like youth and elders try to deal with it. In order for the youth to become successful they will need to arrive at that point of realizing they need the wisdom of the elders. Elders, in order to fulfill their role in the lives of these youth, need to set aside their criticism and clothe themselves in humility so they can be helpers not killers of the youth. Remember that in all of this mess God knows what he is doing, so lean on him and he will lead you through it. Give all your anxiety to him and watch what Jesus will do in the lives of our youth.