Friday, March 16, 2018
Reading: Psalm 119
How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. [Psalm 119:9-10, 16]
Going back to Adam and Eve, there has been a human impulse to zig whenever God (or anyone for that matter) says 'zag.'
Today we have both a culture that assumes children will rebel against whatever their parents value and that young adults have to 'find themselves' apart from adult influences.
There is a lot to be said for not merely accepting whatever pre-determined identity your parent(s) and other family offer you, and for questioning values for yourself.
But although young people don't like to admit it, they learn a lot from their parents values and usually consider it eventually to be a heritage they may want to continue. We say that young people should find themselves, but they find some of themselves in how they have been cultivated in the most meaningful of relationships.
So we do young people a disservice when we concede their cultural upbringing to the media and peers who like them are looking for direction.
Faith in God does not simply give young people (or people of any age) values or all the answers--for me, faith tends to give me more questions than answers.
But faith does also ground me in practices of forgiveness, humility, self-examination, compassion, and universal love. Let me emphasize the word 'practice' here, as in, I need a lot of practice in those things because I'm often not very good in them.
Even if I'm still learning, I still have been shaped by Christian practices and by those people who have been practicing alongside me on their journeys. While I was growing up, it was my parents, brother, and grandmother; my youth group leaders, co-members, and church mentors; and later it was teachers, professors, supervisors, Ashley Grant, and elders.
God has taught me statutes through the BIble but has done a much better job teaching me by putting guides and trusted people in my life who have mostly come through for me (thank you, God!). I have not forgotten the words of those living and dead who touched me by their guidance and faith.
Here's my soapbox moment: If we think that young people today don't have values in their lives; if we think they have strayed, could it be because we grown-ups on the whole haven't offered them examples for spiritual and healthy living? Maybe we didn't give up on them, but maybe we did, just a little.
God continually calls us to offer love in relevant and transformative ways--like mentoring kids in school or on mission trips, or feeding food insecure kids and supervising the kids who volunteer. When we show them how we serve God and neighbor, how we seek to love neighbors as ourselves, they won't forget it--no matter how hard they try!
Yes, young people may reject the teachings and principles and values that we share with them. But just as Wayne Gretsky was right that we miss every shot we don't take, we also miss the opportunity to bring young people closer to God and faith every time we assume they won't care. If our faith is alive and delightful to us, then it's delightful enough to share with people young, old, and in between.
First United Church of Christ
34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
All are welcome at First Church! As an inclusive community of God's children, we affirm the radical welcome and hospitality of the United Church of Christ; No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here!
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