Life’s Lessons

Proper nurturing

By Helen Guilford

Last week’s column challenged us as mature Christians to nurture the youth who come under our care – whether that care is family, community family or church family. We can’t leave them hanging out there on the fringes of adult society to fend for themselves, to make their own tough decisions before they are truly ready to see the implications of those decisions.

Sometimes, that can be really hard for us. After all, we’ve already lived through those tough decision-making years, so we can clearly see what is best. Oh?

Today’s youth live in an entirely different culture. Their lives are entwined with “friends” they have never met and, in many cases, will never meet because they know them through electronic media. They listen to advice from them. And we are just those old fogeys they live with and call family. To them, we seem passe’, out-of-date, and unable to understand them.

To some extent, that’s all true – at least for some of us. I watch these young people with their smart phones talking to each other (texting rather than verbalizing),visiting Facebook, and playing games. Masters of multi-tasking, they appear totally engrossed in their phones and yet know what’s going on around them. We feel left out, neglected.

I know one grandparent who keeps a box by the door where his grandchildren know to deposit their phones when they arrive. They can pick them up when they leave. That way, he still has a prominent place in their lives.

But back to these kids’ decision-making…

Recently, several caring Christian adults met with a young man who is making some difficult decisions. Every one of these adults loves this young man. Yet, every one of them has his or her own agenda of “what is best” for this youth.

Around the table they discussed several different possibilities he could pursue. As summer marches past, schools will open. A decision must be made soon – REALLY soon.

At the close of that discussion period, he chose the way we adults (who, of course, knew with certainty what would be best for him) pretty much pushed him to choose.

In our collective opinion, at least, he had chosen well. After all, we had looked ahead to the next phases of his life and could see how this decision would lead to his life developing well in the years ahead.

We stopped for Dairy Queen cones on the way home. Licking our cones, we were both thoughtful. There’s just something about that slow licking process that shuts the world out and lets us get in touch with our inner desires and thoughts.

At long last, he said, “Can I still think about this?”

In our desire to nurture him, in our desire for him to select the way WE had chosen, we had bombarded him with such an onslaught of choices and thoughts I’m sure he felt overwhelmed. Maybe he chose our way as a means of ending the discussion and getting some thinking time. Also, in our decision-making for him, we neglected to consider his main desire in life – to help people.

We must nurture our youth, but we must also allow them time to think things through, to carefully, prayerfully consider what is best for them – not necessarily what WE think is best. Yes, let’s nurture them, mentor them, but let them make their own choices without too much adult society pressure. That is true Christian love. And sometimes it can be tough love.

Proper nurturing

By Helen Guilford