Time of Youth, a Sieve?
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” Ecclesiastes 12:1
Youth passes all too quickly! “Sieve” and “youth” seem to be two words often well-matched. Time slips away in youth like sand through a sieve. It is not that time is any different for youth than for adults in say midlife; it moves inexorably forward in every stage of life. Nothing causes time to actually slow down or speed up. It is as consistent as sunrise and sunset, every 24 hours, for as long as creation remains as it is. The sieve of youth is time passing with nothing to show for it in terms of character formation, being ill-influenced by peers on the same frivolous track, allowing the marvels of youth to be stolen by illusions, being thrust into life decisions without the benefit of a foundation strong enough to withstand storms, and facing the rest of your life with the bags of immature behavior hanging round your shoulders. Not a great picture, but all too familiar, and all too repetitive.
Still the Bible doesn’t refer to any other time of life as it does this “magical” one, where it strongly reminds youth to remember their Creator when their minds and bodies are fresh. Why? Very probably because the time of youth is so often frittered away with little to show for it, and because youth is the time necessary for the laying of foundations in preparation for the immediate and most seminal decisions and acts of life. Too often those decisions and acts are made with very little, if any, foundation of gained knowledge and its essential twin, wisdom. Yet these decisions and acts which come when youth are still youth are so far-reaching in the lives, fortune, and future of many people beyond themselves. It is ironic that God has designed these decisions and acts to be invested in those too often unprepared to make them. How often have we heard in later regrets the words, “I was just too young!”? But it wasn’t the age; it was the lack of wise preparation. Ecclesiastes 12 reminds us of what youth is, before the later natural course of life comes to pass. Youth is a time of unbounded energy, the vigor of a young and healthy body, the opposite of all the maladies that come with age once youth is gone. Procrastination in youth is encouraged by the wrong assumption that there is lots of time yet to be productive and now is the time for “fun”; this assumption rests on a destructively false definition of what truly constitutes fun. The enticing picture of what “fun” is, ill-defined, turns sour in the blink of an eye.
It is only due to the forbearance and mercy of God that civilization has not devolved into complete disrepair and total chaos considering that so many critical decisions are made without any essential character foundation in place.
Youth’s unique strengths and blessings are multiplied when this fleeting time is recognized as a blessing and a gift for a relatively brief segment of an entire life. The foundations sought and laid in youth impact the course of life all the way to the grave; and not only your course of life, but also the lives of your spouse, children, grandchildren and beyond. You are never an isolated island alone to yourself; your decisions impact many, many others for good or for ill; a fact you can never remove. The most effective and powerful check on a failure to recognize the blessing of youth is the knowledge of Who made you and a hunger to know Him as the only way to truly know who you are. Whether your life is constrained to five more years or 80, it will only be satisfying if you really know who you are and not who you falsely think you are. Apart from your Maker, you are swimming in a sea of lies. Don’t end up drowning in it.
In your youth, find out who you are and will be by remembering your Creator. The decisions you will soon typically make need to be made with Him in view. The best preparation to make quality decisions of love, sex, parenting, and career is knowing the Architect because He is also their Maker, these human beings with whom you have to do. He defines and creates the pieces which make up praiseworthy character. Your youth is the best time to put yours together. It is not congenital. It doesn’t come with your human body born from your mother’s womb, like your skin, face, or feet. Character is the clothing of your personality being woven in your youth; it is the mold in which your heart incubates and sets when you are still young, your heart in the making, which is increasingly and outwardly observed in your youth through your affections, emotions, and choices. Who do others who have good insight say you are now? What will they say in a year or two from now?
Character produces the blueprint of your entire life. Whatever is left of the time of your youth, get rid of the sieve in your heart and mind quickly. A sieve lets the good and valuable slide through its holes, not allowing you to hold on to them and become a part of who you are and will be. What you are inside eventually comes out, allowing others to see and know who you really are. Make your time of youth not a sieve, but be an avid nurturer of those values which sustain you when the storms of life beat on you one after another. Constant storms are the guaranteed nature of every life. Youth with solid character, well described in Psalm 1, are those standing when the storms pass. The first 3 verses of Psalm 1 are a picture of permanent character at work; the last 3 are of those who chose the sieve of youth as a necklace throughout a life characterized as chaff.
“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that thou art; Thou my best thought by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”
(1st verse of Dallan Forgail’s hymn, “Be Thou My Vision”, 1905)
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