Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” … then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him – before … the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. – Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6-7
The Teacher of Ecclesiastes makes a point only a few of us grasp in youth, but so easy to understand as our years mount: Devotion to God is not meant just for old age but as a lifelong endeavor.
Older people, seeing mortality overtaking them like a runaway train, rather naturally feel a growing dependence on the Creator. Faced with a fraction of the physical and emotional challenges of old age that this book of wisdom notes, even those with a decades-long aversion to religion often find themselves drawn to the spiritual as the days grow obviously short.
As the passage above insists, though, the key to the life well lived is to embrace God’s purposes early on.
And here’s the rub: The young most often have vigor and beauty and the confidence that comes with seemingly endless possibilities. They appear to have more time stretching out ahead of them than they can comprehend.
Just as they often fail to grasp their own mortality, many young people comprehend a life directed by and devoted toward God as an overly restrictive life, rather than a blessed one.
Even teachers in secular settings often lament the rash risks that their students take – drug use, casual sex, reckless driving and more – that reflect a literal inability of most teens and young adults to acknowledge their mortality in practical, protective ways. The same incomprehension seems to apply to the spiritual essence of our existence.
Thus the sad humor behind the adage, “We grow too soon old and too late smart.”
In light of this difficulty, perhaps parents and others who love specific young people can best place their confidence in – and their efforts behind – other passages from yet another of the Bible’s books of wisdom.
“Train up a child in the way he should go,” we are told in Proverbs 22:6. “Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
In Proverbs 20:7, the author gives parents hope for their offspring, along with a heavy responsibility: “The righteous man who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him!”
NEMS Daily Journal