Thursday, November 30, 2006

Youth and Ignorance

I'm quite willing to post a sound clip of my voice, as requested, if someone can tell me how to do it, since I have no clue :).

I haven't had much time to draft in-depth blog posts recently, so I'm pulling something from my drafts :). I wrote this back in August, I believe. Yes, I've decided that I overanalyze stories. Hehe.


I recently saw a play version of Peter Pan. I always liked the story of Peter Pan growing up, both the book and the Disney-fied movie as well, and I still do like it. But this time when I saw the play version (in the tradition of Mary Martin), though I enjoyed it, I also saw it through different eyes. As the lost boys were chanting I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, . . not me!, the cuteness of the song was lost to me. All I could think of right then was verse after verse from the Proverbs about wisdom and old age. Gray hair is a crown of splendor, is it not? Wisdom is found among the aged. And we are commanded to search for wisdom!

I previously mused a bit on the faulty idolization of youth in my post on L.M. Montgomery's The Golden Road. It strikes me as sad that our culture seems to perpetuate childhood as long as possible. Youth has become our idol. I am not talking about making a 7-year-old take on a full time job; I am talking about expecting adult behavior from people before they graduate college! We have 30 year olds who shy away from marriage because they are not ready for "commitment," and because they do not want to be "tied down" by a wife or family. We expect teenagers to act immature, irresponsible, and self-centered, so no wonder they do. Our culture is obsessed with the youthful image. We go to great lengths to look younger and feel younger. We hide our true age. We have mid-life crises when we realize that we're getting old.

But age is a good thing - a crown of splendor! We should look forward to old age and the wisdom we will gain along the way. I'm certainly glad I won't be 22 forever; I wouldn't want to be that immature for my whole life! On a recent trip to the mall I noticed a clothing store called "Forever Twenty-One." I jokingly turned to Mother Dear and lamented the fact that I was no longer that idealistic age. Now that I'm 22, life is just not worth living. *feigned sigh*

I've heard many, many people who think that we're supposed to be childlike, living as innocently as children (that alone is a problematic statement!), that we should learn to be as simple as children, as carefree as children, as trusting as children. Et cetera. Jesus does tell us to have the faith of a little child, but He is not intending for us to live in our teens or childhood perpetually. We are not to eschew knowledge and wisdom in order to keep our "childlike faith."

Jesus is speaking about having a complete trust in Someone who is bigger than us, dependence on Him, and coming to Him even when we cannot fully comprehend His ways. That is the faith of a little child. He is not speaking of being content in our ignorance for life, but taking His word on faith, when we cannot yet completely understand! We come to Him helpless, but then we learn to grow in grace and knowledge, not permanently stunted in growth, stuck in perpetual youth. Youthful ignorance is not a blessing.

Peter Pan leaves us with a mixed lesson, a realization that adulthood is inevitable, but a wish to remain a child forever. I'm not sure how that strikes me. Surely one can grow in wisdom and age without losing all sense of fun and adventure! Who said children have all the fun? And one can also grow in intellect and not "out-grow" his faith; in fact, only the truly wise can embrace the gospel by faith, for the fool hath said in his heart, "There is no God."
When a man has a little bit of knowledge, he turns to atheism. When he learns more, he turns back to God. - Dr. Charles Thaxton

Were I given the choice to becoming my 10-year-old self again, or were I given the option of entering an actual Never-Neverland and remain as I am forever, I would run far away. I look forward to being old, and I pray that with age God guides me in growing in grace and wisdom as well. . . And that wisdom will be worth wrinkles and gray hair!

Death is not an original part of the creation (Romans 5:12, e.g.), and I would extend that concept to submit that neither was physical aging, at least the detrimental kind. Certainly there are disadvantages to wrinkles, gray hair, and creaking joints. My four grandparents, all 79+ and wracked with various ailments, can attest to that. I can't help but wonder: if The Fall had never happened, would the aging of mankind have been like that of the elves of Middle Earth? The elves were immortal and grew wiser and more beautiful with age. Perhaps Tolkien meant to give us a small glimpse into an existence without The Fall. Certainly humans do not grow more beautiful with age, at least not outwardly so! But scripture tells us that we should grow more wise with age, which doesn't jive with a fixation on youth.

Job 12:12 Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

Job 32:7 Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.

I Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.


Lydia said...

Hey Susan! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on youth and growing older with us. I enjoyed this post.

I wanted to let you know that I found a link for audio blogging capabilty.

All you have to do is talk over the phone to upload a clip to your blog. There is a free trial offered at this site. If I find something better I will let you know. I won't be able to post until Saturday at the soonest as I am working tomorrow. I may have to resort to pulling from my archives like you. :) I have so many posts rolling around in my head at the present but not enough time to put firing neurons to the screen. :)

Hope you are having a blessed week. We just accumulated about 4-5 inches of snow here over the day. Thankfully, I made it home safely this evening. God bless, Lydia

Anonymous said...

"I don't wanna grow up, 'cuz I'm a Toys R Us kid..."

What does a society end up like, when the children in it are not prepared for real, true, hard work??

Sadly, we may be in the process of finding out.

Adrian C. Keister said...

You sound like R. C. Sproul. That's a compliment, of course. In his book Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, he expresses these ideas like so:

[begin quote]
In some Christian circles the biblical call to a childlike faith has been elevated to a spiritual ideal that radically distorts the biblical meaning of faith. The New Testament does describe a certain childlike faith as a virtue. Jesus said, "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it" (Mark 10:15).

But what is this childlike faith? The word like suggests some sort of analogy. The analogy is obvious. As little children trust their parents and take them at their word, so we, in similar fashion, are to trust God. An infant's life depends on trusting in the care of parents...

There is a vast difference, however, between a childlike faith and a childish faith, though the two are often confused. A childish faith balks at learning the things of God in depth. It refuses the meat of the gospel while clinging to a diet of milk. For this, the childish Christian receives an admonition:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

The call of the New Testament is to maturity... Paul makes a further distinction between the way in which we are to remain as babes and the way in which we are called to adulthood. He says, "Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature" (1 Corinthians 14:20).

I'd be interested to read where you think grace fits into this picture. There is, of course, the call to be mature. And... grace?

Good post, in my opinion.

In Christ,

Susan said...

Thanks for the audio link, Lydia. I'm going to try to do that today. I hope you can get it to work also :). Wow, 4-5 inches of snow! Georgia shuts down if we get flurries ;). Hehe.

I think we are about to find out, Jessie. *frightened look* The Harris twins (The Rebelution) have done some really good articles on the "Kidults" of today. I haven't read all the articles, but the ones I read were good.

I'll definitely take a resemblance (however small) to Sproul as a compliment, Adrian :). Good quote, there. The differentiation of childish and childlike is *key*. My grandfather gave a memorable sermon on that very thing years ago, and Mother Dear still remembers it.

I'm a bit confused on your query about grace. Care to expound :)? I'm now interested how you think grace fits into the picture. I think it fits in where it always does: we have a call to greater maturity, but we also rest in the comfort that when we fail in this, we have an elder brother who has already lived the perfect life we should have lived, thus guaranteeing us riches in heaven despite our failings here on earth.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Where does grace fit? Well, I like what you said. It seems to me that grace needs to be acknowledged most everywhere in this process.

1. We are saved once for all in justification. I use the passive voice on purpose in that sentence to reflect the passive nature of "being saved." We are saved by grace through faith, and not by works lest any man should boast. We don't even "make the choice to accept Christ" except by God's grace in calling us and in regenerating us so that we desire God. I think it good for us who desire to mature in the faith to remember this part of our salvation constantly. When we remember from what a depth we have risen, and that completely on the strength of Another, we have a better chance of retaining a childlike faith, which I think is part of an unchildish faith. That implicit trust in God is something we should never outgrow (as you mentioned already); moreover, the continual recognition of it is, I think, part of sanctification. I'm sure Walter Marshall would agree.

2. So now we are saved. But from what are we saved, and to what are we saved? This question has multiple answers. Ultimately, of course, we are saved from eternal death (separation from God), and to eternal life with God, the greatest of all pleasures. But this question has an answer in the here and now as well. We are saved from our sins, and to good works, good works which we must do. There's no option here, no "carnal Christian" possibility. We must do them, but not without grace. We cannot do good works on our own strength, for the very simple reason that all our actions are tainted with impure motives. Only those works done through God's strength will be acceptable to Him. And what is one of those good works? Our discipleship, surely: learning more about the things of God and then putting them into practice, for surely all doctrines are eminently practical. Doctrine matters when I take the garbage out, when I go to work, when I pay my taxes, etc.

3. But how does this happen? How do we learn more about God? Ultimately, there is only one way: the Holy Spirit illuminating Scriptural truths. That is the primary cause for the process of learning more about God and maturing in the faith. Naturally, the Holy Spirit works through secondary causes such as preachers, parents, other teachers, Bible study, etc. And, to head off some very unhealthy notions, the Holy Spirit will never contradict the Bible. That would mean that the house of God was divided against itself, which cannot be. The Holy Spirit would be opposed to Jesus Christ, which is impossible. So you can't have that situation in which a man, for example, divorces his wife for no good reason and then turns around and claims, "The Holy Spirit told me to do it." No, He didn't. You're just rationalizing your actions by being a false prophet. You claim God told you to do that, but He didn't.

In summary, then, I would say grace operates everywhere here. Grace operates in order to bring us closer to the law. The law says to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Clearly, the Hebrew there means "with all your sum total of being." Nothing is left out. We are to love God. But how can we love Someone we don't even know? Loving God means obeying the law (and vice versa). How can you obey the law unless you know what it is? And how will you know what it is unless you study it? Surely, God has imprinted His law on the hearts of men, but that isn't enough. The Psalm says to meditate on the law day and night. So there's your maturing in the knowledge of God.

There's me, weighing in with probably a lot more words than was necessary, but oh, well. Incidentally, I've been very convicted both in reading your post, and in writing this comment. I do not do so well as I should. Prayer, in particular, is extremely difficult for me to do. I love studying the Bible, but find praying hard. Moreover, I have no excuse whatsoever for not praying. I know it's powerful, as I've seen its power first-hand. I know my words do just go into empty air, I know that God hears them, I know that if I love God I should want to pray, I know that if I pray nearly first thing in the morning, the day seems to go much better in terms of not falling into temptations. I even know that it's most definitely not a waste of time! And yet there are many times when I just don't want to do it. Well, as many fellow Christians including Chris Hutchinson would say, I should just repent and move on.

In Christ.

Susan said...

I very much liked your response :). Excellent point about our discipleship being one of the good works to which we are saved. I'd never really thought about it like that before. Interesting that you say doctrine matters, because most of American Christianity thinks doctrine is a crutch, the devil's vice, or something like that. But more doctrine is the "meat" of the Christian faith. If we keep repeating "Jesus loves me" and leave it at that, then we're not moving on to meat!

The working of the Holy Spirit (and the necessity of it!) was something I didn't grasp for years. I think it was a reaction against the charismatic movement, which of course was the wrong reaction. Realizing that the Holy Spirit doesn't contradict the Bible is so *key* to it all, but that is often ignored by fringe movements.

Anyway, you had plenty of good thoughts there, and I'm glad you expounded on what you meant by your first comment.

Prayer has long been a struggle for me too. I know the importance of prayer, but I often don't act on it. It's that head knowledge to heart knowledge problem :(. But you're right, that we shouldn't keep bemoaning our sin, but repent and move on. I rather like that way of putting it.