Today I’m linking up with some folks over at Preston’s space to write about the voice we have as young people. So the letter today asks a simple question, and I offer my rambling, here-and-there thoughts. I hope you’ll head over there and read what others are sharing!
People tell me that I’ll understand things better when I’m older. That I will learn the ways of the world after I’ve been in the world longer, that I should just give it time, and then things will become clearer. Not to be too blunt, but is this really true? What about the young ones? What about me – I’m 22, and I want to protest that I know something of love and loss and living, even if I only have a glimpse, even if I’m at the beginning. What do you think?
Dear young one,
We have long been obsessed with time, from the Ice Age to the Babylonians to the Egyptians and beyond. We’ve wanted to measure ourselves, our crops, our pregnancies. We have used cycles of the moon, the sun, the journey of constellations. We have used water clocks and sundials. We scratched lines in cave walls.
We know that we live in time. We know the sun rises and sets, that gravity pulls tides to the moon and back (though I still imagine some days that the moon and the water long for each other, and we are simply watching their love story). We know special and general relativity and the concept of time in multi-dimensional calculus. All this good knowledge, all this wonder, all this learning.
We want to put it to use everywhere we go. But the one place perhaps it is not useful is here: in the measurement of our mysterious selves, in the measurement of a wise spirit and a humble, wide-open heart. You see, young one, hearts do not learn according to calendar time. This is of the utmost importance. The time it takes to learn a lesson about letting someone walk away from you freely (like I wrote about last week) takes some people a year in high school, others a gut-wrenching breakup at thirty, still others much later in life. Some of us learn the ache of unrequited love in seventh grade. Some of us learn it teaching seventh grade.
I don’t know how wisdom really works, young one. But I know it does not arrive because you reach a magical threshold called “old enough.” I know it comes to the heart that welcomes it. I know it comes to those who are patient, peace-loving, quick to love and learn, willing to forgive and be forgiven. You do not get wiser because you got older.
It is true that in the grace of time, we are allowed to relearn and learn deeper the lessons we most need. It is true that the older ones among us have lived more stories (maybe ten to each one of ours) and can show us the shape of love and hurt and anger and reconciliation in many stories, not just the few we know. But we who are young must offer our stories too – because we alone have lived them inside and out, because in each story, however young, is the thumbprint of Love Himself, come down in mystery and grace and nearness to teach us. We all know nothing in the face of our Teacher.
So while you’re young and beautiful I urge you to love wild. When we get older, we often shrink back into the shadows of what seems safe. We cling to the familiar. We look for patterns and habits, gentle fences to keep our lives just as they are. So you who are not yet afraid of changes and new spaces? Spread your wisdom to your elders. Remind them that with Love, nothing is to be feared. Remind them that to be new again really does mean to be wild in grace and rich in compassion. Remind them that we are all little children drawing water from a dazzling stream.
And while you’re young, teach this world to trust.