Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Youth vs. Youth

Late last night, Jonalyn and I drove back from visiting old-time friends in Temecula, CA. The neon lights from 10,000 stores, shops, and billboards flicked images at my weary eyes. One caught my attention enough to break the silence. It was a company selling items for "Baby and Youth."

Suddenly I noticed a dichotomy on the word "Youth." In clothing, "youth" is that size you wear in elementary school. It is when you are a mama's boy or daddy's girl, still unscarred from hearing that parental talk about Birds and Bees.

Teens, however, are not sold "youth" clothing. They have grown into adult sizes of various sorts.

Yet when you go to church, the word "Youth" is used to speak of these same teens. Adults at the mall; youth at church. These "youth" carry with them the auspicies of family protection, of church parenting, and of sheltering seedier things. If you show a movie in "youth" group, you can guarantee it will rated fitting enough for the 8 year olds.

This is not to say that those marketing to teens have it right and the church has it wrong. The marketers may only be making a plea to sell clothing. And movie ratings that give kids permission to start watching partial nudity by age 13 may have it all wrong. And church may make too many excuses for immature behavior in their "youth" groups.

But I want to point out this one thing:

There may be an underlying subconscious belief among teens that when they go to the mall and the movies they are talked to and treated like adults. But when they are in their Christian 'youth' groups, they are treated as much less. They may have the perception that what the marketers are offering them is real life, telling them to grow up and join a larger crowd. While in their homes, they may rightfully be treated as still not mature enough to grow up.

How many stories have I heard from families who do not want their kids to go "away" to college because they think a college close by is a better bet. And what they really mean is that they want to continue parenting and not set their kids to fly to other skies. This is often the voice of parents who haven't faced the fact that they cannot live vicariously through their children but must find their place, happiness, and value in other ways God designed.

So guys and gals, go easy on your parents as they care for you and love you. But be always thinking that today is a day to grow up in. However we decide to define "youth," do bear in mind your part to grow up, to build up, and live into the permanent things.