While working out at the gym today I overheard a muscle-bound weight lifter, covered in large Christian tattoos, moaning and wailing and cussing about the no-good 18-year-old son of his. Another beefy man working out kind of listened, but was anxious to regale his own injustices suffered. (The irony of two “strong” men with no control over their poor little feelings!) The angry father’s comments went something like: “I’ve taken his keys and car away. I’ve kicked him out of the house. He’s on his own!” (abundant expletives omitted)
I have no idea what the real situation is, but I couldn’t help but think what life was like, myself, back in the critical time of graduating from high school and leaving for college. What a difference it made then (and now) to have parents who saw the best in me, who expected the best from me and, when all else failed, still managed to avoid speaking badly of me in front others.
As parents or adults who exercise influence in the lives of young people I wonder how often we realize the power of our words to build up rather than tear down? How often are we the kind of adults who help lift up younger generations with words of encouragement and strength, especially during difficult times of transition?
That “surfer dude” in the photo was a kid who could have doubted himself and gone nowhere, but through the love of parents and grandparents and the influence of teachers at school and priests at church (“cradle Episcopalian”, as they say), I have been able to work through many situations and life decisions. That “kid” is still alive and well and thriving in this life as an adult because others along the way infused life into him!
So, here’s a salute to all adults who build up rather than tear down, and whose words bring hope rather than crushing the spirit! We can be both strong and gentle with those in our lives. That seems to be the way God deals with us …
Isaiah 40:10-11 (NRSV)
See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.
Former surfer, still a sheep …