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Youth and Old Age Security

by Glen White

You’ve heard the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” Scripture states it a bit differently, “So as we sow, so shall we reap.” Have you found this to be true in your experience with children and young people?

The youth – those we mentor, care for, educate, teach principles, correct, encourage, sit up at night with, grieve together with – are those who become the supportive pillars we lean on somewhere in the future.

Some years ago, when I was approaching middle age, I experienced a phenomena: The rock, my Father, always my dependable foundation in life, began to look to me for wisdom and advice. My aging parent was depending upon me more and more for some physical needs as well as opinions and advice. He actually considered me a bit of an authority and a major influence in decisions. As he had once been my security and stability, now it seemed this process was making a full circle. What goes around did appear to be coming around.

The familiar scripture in Malachi 4 states that first the hearts of the fathers are directed toward the children and then the children’s hearts respond to the fathers. First the mentoring, then the responsive bonding from the children. As expected, God has placed this generational cycle in motion for a very good reason.

Most of us are aware of the value the United Church of God places on our young people. There are established educational programs, Bible lessons designed for the different age groups, special youth meetings at the Feast of Tabernacles, summer camps and Ambassador Bible Center for those who can attend. However, all these programs and educational efforts are only as helpful as the mentor/teacher/parent/caring adult that is involved in the process.

Proverbs 17:6 tells us the delight of grandparents are their grandchildren. Grandparents have a great deal of influence not only with their children but also their children’s children. Often grandparents have a bit more time to contribute to youngsters than our scurrying adult children in their peak years of working.

Is God really interested in our efforts? Each year we observe the ceremony of blessing of little children by setting children apart and dedicating them to the service of God through the laying on of hands. Jesus dramatically emphasized this vital connection between the children and the adult/parent through this ceremony. He bonded the generations together, emphasizing several characteristics of little children adults need to retain and that the children’s future is in the family of God. Christ then pointed out our adult responsibility is tutoring (Matt. 18:1-6, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15,16).

Proverbs 29:17-18 says, “Correct your son…” which means instruct and guide the youth. The result is that he will be a delight in your life. Verse 18 emphasizes the need for vision. Where is all this taking us and our youth? As usual, with God’s promises, to a happy conclusion.

At this point, it may be beneficial to point out some hazards facing our children. In our society children have 12 years of minimal public socialization mixed with some education before they are either thrust into adult occupations or further education. Some decades ago, our western nations retained some values of the Christian ethic of right or wrong and moral parameters. This is not so today! Several items alone should be enough to raise the protective ire in each of us. The first is the enforced legislation that homosexual instruction will be part of basic socialization in public school. The second is the age of sexual consent, which is now 14 years of age in Canada. (In some other western nations it is 12.) At the most critical time of sexual identification and development of self worth, society is pressuring children into poly-cultural standards of Sodom, instead of directing them toward godly standards.

What is it that legislators and society seek, except to force conformity to the twisted and bankrupt morality of our time?

In Psalms 127, the psalmist was inspired to write about family life from God’s perspective. It is filled with meaning and direction. Note in summary:

Verse 1 - “Except the Lord build…” Unless God is the architect, contractor and decorator, all the labor and effort will just not work out.

Verse 2 - With the implementation of godly principles and instruction, we can rest confidently – a real safe and pleasant sleep.

Verse 3 - Emphasizes children belong to God (His heritage), and they are a gift to us to nurture and instruct. I often wonder if working with children matures us in the Word of God and opens our eyes to the depths of blessings for responsiveness to Scripture.

Verse 4 - To an archer, this verse adds another dimension. As an arrow is released from the bow, it is sent in a specific direction as an extension of the will and intent of the archer himself. So, too, children carry the culture and purpose of God from and through the parent. But there is more meaning in this verse. A lessthan- perfect bow (parent) can send an arrow concisely to its target, but the arrow (youth) needs to be more nearly perfected to be consistently accurate. Amazingly, a perfect bow cannot send a flawed arrow directly to its mark. As an arrow is straightened and perfected in the hands of the bowman, so is the youth through the use of God’s laws and instruction. Parents with perseverance and godly direction can help produce a more perfected product than themselves. Isn’t this the dream of every dedicated parent?

Verse 5 - Happy is the man who has a quiver full, or at least a number of contacts with, youth. Sharing with youth is the ultimate high for many of us. The last part of this verse pictures a glimpse into their future as leaders and eventually part of God’s Kingdom. Many adults feel children aren’t really interested in what grown-ups have to offer. Let me help dispel this illusion with a story about the instinctive response of a child. The youngster was trying to capture the attention of his father. The somewhat jaded father was trying to read his newspaper while his bubbling five year-old vied for his attention. The first question received a muffled grunt of response, followed by a preoccupied, “That’s nice.” On it went, until suddenly the father had an unexpected lapful of an excited and focused youngster. The child firmly planted his small hands on either side of dad’s face, forcing the father to look him straight in the eyes. The boy asked, “Are you in there, Dad?”

Our children are reaching out. If this boy cannot reach his dad, maybe he can with one of us. If we’re willing, I’m sure he will find one of us. Let me add one more thrilling moment to further embellish the above point. Many of us have served in the youth summer camps. And we share the growth years with many of God’s youth. We have them in classes at age 12, 13, and up through the ages of 18, when they go on to graduation, jobs or university.

One thing we share in the summer camps or combined outings with the parents of our youth, is a reflection of their home life, the teenage frustrations, as well as their accomplishments. We share the mature moments as well as the temporary “hormonal” crises.

It is marvelous to see so many summer camp graduates going on to Ambassador Bible College and actively enjoying God’s way of life. To perceive their personal dedication and determination to grow and serve God – it just doesn’t get any better than this for a camp counselor or activity director. The generations become connected. These are our grandchildren in the faith. They are picking up the baton from our aging fingers and plunging ahead with it.

The old adage rings true: “What is sent around is what surely comes around.”

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