I awakened to sunshine and a warm breeze blowing through the open crack of my window. My spirit soared! Today would be the day to make that transition from cement workout room to the great outdoors. I felt a bit like the lover in Song of Solomon: “For lo, the winter is past…” As I walked down my long driveway I breathed in new, Spring air that smelled of the thawing earth. What a great morning for a jog!
At the base of my driveway I noticed an empty beer can. “I’ll have to pick that up when I come back.” Out on the country road near my home I kicked it into gear a bit. It seemed like nature was about ready to “pop” and I delighted to be out in it after a long winter. But as I ran I noticed human elements mixed in with the nature. Somehow as the piles of snow melt, winter trash surfaces. There were several crushed beer cartons tossed to the side of the road. I saw about five cigarette packages, emptied, strewn about. There were a couple of tiny bottles of alcohol, the kind you get on a plane to help you over your fear of flying. Rather than scanning the surroundings for signs of budding flowers I began to look for further evidence that many a joy ride used our country road for dumping the evidence. The most disturbing sign of too much Friday night flings was a pair of white cotton women’s underwear. I don’t even want to know, I was thinking! So much for the refreshing spring morning run!
A disturbing rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas” came to my mind: “On a lovely spring outing I happened to espy: 5 cigarette packs, 4 crushed beer cans, 3 emptied 12-packs, 2 flasks of liquor and a pair of women’s cotton underwear…” That ought never be put to music, I chastened myself.
The most obvious age group that came to my mind on this tantalizing tour was “youth”. Few of us can claim to have navigated our way through our teenage years flawlessly. They are classically the years of experimentation and defiance. We pray that our children will make it through their rebellious years with no long-term crises and with a wisdom gained from their exploits. The booze, cigarettes and cast-off clothing on my jog reminded me that every generation struggles to understand what matters—and what works! If they can do this without giving in to any of the temptation, more power to them. But most people make some mistakes along the way, just like we did. It’s easy for older generations to harshly judge the younger ones but few of us would run for public office if we knew our opponents were going to dig too far back into our past for “dirt”!
Rather than jumping at the chance to judge others we are called to reach out with compassion to those around us. Especially we need to direct our energies toward the younger generation who is counting on us noticing them and affirming their gifts. They’re looking to us to cast a vision of hope, which we have failed to do of late. Paul took young Timothy under his wing, seeing gifts that were initially underdeveloped. Timothy inconvenienced the more mature evangelists by needing to catch a bus home midway into a soul-saving tour. Barnabas told Paul they were wasting their resources on this immature young man. But Paul trusted his instincts and coaxed a tremendous faith life out of young Timothy. In the Church 2000 years later, we are in Paul’s debt because of the fine example Timothy became for newbies to the faith. So watch out how readily you cast a judgment on a younger generation. It could be that, once they sow their wild oats, they’ll be serving up your oatmeal with a smile at the nursing home, reminding you of just how much God loves you!