Rear View Mirror


After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth. (Jeremiah 31:19)

Youth and stupidity go together like numb and skull. For the young and restless, reason and common sense are foreign languages. Youth is a golden age of exuberant idiocy, giddy carelessness, oblivious abandon, and fully executed insanity. Youth is a pedal to the metal rush of hormones, whims, bad judgment, and proto-dementia that makes you wonder if humans under the age of twenty are an altogether  different species.

I did really stupid stuff when I was a kid. We once had a Tarzan rope tied to a tall tree on the banks of a river. The idea was to swing out over the river and jump in. My dad though that was too dangerous so he moved the rope to a tall tree in our large back yard where nobody would drown. One day I decided to see how far I could jump from the swing. I took a running start, hit the rope at full throttle, and swung fifteen feet into the air where I let go and promptly fell like a rock to the hard ground. My left arm snapped like a dry twig. Even in the emergency room, it never occurred to me that I had just done something dumb. But that’s the point; when you’re young nothing occurs to you.

The stupidity of youth gets really interesting if we think of Jesus as a teenager. The idea of a “normal” teenage son of God is so freaky that the Bible skips it. We do get one glimpse of a twelve year old Jesus who wanders away from his parents and messes with the minds of the local clergy. This earns him a rebuke from his parents. And though the Bible notes that Jesus is afterward “obedient to them,” he’s clueless as to why his parents were miffed in the first place. “Why were you searching for me?” he asks them. Like, duh. A tweeny Son of God is a scary thing. No wonder the Bible turns a blind eye to the next 20 years of Jesus’ life. The less we know about those years the better.

Youth appears to be God’s guarantee that we will eventually have something to repent of. What seems like such a cool idea to a seventeen year old moron is positively humiliating to a rational adult. When I was a seventeen year old, I once took a guitar into the local police station on Halloween and sang some stupid song I made up. The officers on duty tried their best to ignore me but it was hard since I was wearing only a T-shirt, shorts,  and a pair of cowboy boots. I left feeling I had accomplished something. (Sadly, I’ve rarely had that feeling since.) What I accomplished, however, was being a pinhead. This, of course, didn’t actually occur to me until years later.

Youth is built on unreality. When you’re young you’re immortal (which may explain skateboarding and mosh pits). When you’re young everything is permitted, especially things that can get you killed or thrown in jail. When you’re young the only limits are parental, nothing a little calculated innocence can’t get around. When you’re young you are, for a very brief and glorious moment, lost in space.

Yes, eventually we all need a reality check;  eventually we have to put childish ways behind us. Eventually we have to grow up.

Just not yet.


One Response

  1. I liked this one – maybe because I’m all day with teens…

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