Photo by Damien Katz
I often talk to a friend of mine (more like a little brother) who’s a freshman in college. Though he’s been through some rough times, he still has so much passion and zeal for life. Despite the bumps in the road, he’s willing to take on the world. Another girl I know, same age, is even more fierce. A guitar in one hand and a Bible in the other, she’s an amazing force of love and energy rolled into a petite frame. The thing I enjoyed most about my years in youth ministry (and will enjoy about college ministry) is the absolute wonder with which younger folks have as they come into adulthood.
Way back when I was 19 (all of 9 years ago), I remember being so idealistic. I looked at cynical adults with pity and wondered what they were like when they were my age. I finally have an answer–some of them where probably a lot like me. “The troubles of the world” strangled my idealism–an ongoing extra-martial affair, divorce, severe medical issues, car accidents, death, remarriage, breaking down of relationships, loss of trust. Yet when I think about the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), I wonder, how can the very real troubles of this world *not* strangle us?
“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22)
I’m not making excuses for foolish behavior; I merely want to point out that while parables are meant to teach, they are not always absolute. They’re not as black and white as we’ve been taught to believe (in fact, in my Bible Jesus’ parables are red). The truth is that no matter how big of a plant, nor how little; we all get strangled…but we do not all whither away and die. We do get caught up in the troubles and the wealth of this world, and we hold on.
” A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3)
Yet hope remains for the bruised reeds of the world. Jesus quotes this passage in Isaiah when speaking in Matthew 12:20, which is a whole chapter ahead of the parable of the sower. I suppose even those who are strangled (and bruised) have hope for redemption, hope for uh, hope. Even in my cynicism, God will not break me, but He will choke the pride right out of me–even when “it feels like death to me” (Derek Webb quote!).
I wonder if idealism and youth go hand-in-hand, or if there’s hope for cynics. I once heard an extended recording of Keith Green singing, “Lord, You’re Beautiful”. He said that as he wrote that song in the wee hours of the morning, he prayed that God would give him “baby skin” around his heart again. That’s my prayer, too, that I would have the soft idealism of my youth would return. I’m not yet 30 and I feel so old, so beaten, so broken, like I’ve been alive forever but am now just starting to actually live.
Here and there, I see glimpses of it–that idealism, which is just out of grasp. I chase after it like a little girl looking for fairies in the woods or a dog chasing a rabbit. The thrill of idealism is in the hunt, isn’t it? That’s the part that makes us start to feel alive again; the part where we actually start to care. I want to throw off the shackles of apathy and run full force into wonder again. Yet hurt holds me back, so I walk carefully between the shadows and the sunshine in the forest of possibility, daring myself to chase after my dreams, which are so close and yet so far.