Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it is to be young….
–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
Ah, youth! How smart, how full of energy, how bright the future! If we knew what we were in for as adults, would we choose to grow anyway? Maybe, if we look at it spiritually; physically and emotionally, not so much. At least I wouldn’t. If I had foreknowledge of the physical pain and emotional trauma I would suffer as a child-teen-young adult, I would rather have stayed in the bosom of God. But, sitting there in His Presence before my birth, I did know; my spirit knew I would need to suffer to become the spirit being I needed to be. My physical self doesn’t like it but the spiritual self knows it to be necessary. After 58 years on this planet and out of the enveloping Presence of God, I can do what all aging folks do–look back and see with hind sight that it was necessary to suffer.
Some lessons can only be learned with suffering. How can I learn compassion unless I am shown none? How can I learn patience unless I am left wanting? How can I learn to love unless I am unloved? Of course, I had choices along the way. I could have become bitter and hateful and completely without regard of my fellow human being. I could have chosen anger and violence as my way to move through life. It is there – that seed – deep in my heart that has tried to take root and grow but for the Love and earthly Presence of God (not to be confused with the [for lack of a better word] – Heavenly – Presence of God). I will carry that bitter seed my whole life and will strive to keep it dormant. It only takes one small event to nourish the seed and like kudzu, it will worm its way into every corner of my soul.
How do I guard myself against such an invasive weed? I can’t do it alone. I require assistance from God, from other souls who have gone before me, from strangers who cross my path (or is it I who cross theirs?), and from Nature herself where I find solace and the strength to dig out that seed whenever it takes hold. So I read, reflect, create, pray, sing and dance my way through the bitterness, the anger, the judgment; accepting it as a true part of myself but not one I wish to nourish.
I will choose to nourish the better part of me, the compassionate me, the me who loves unconditionally, the patient me, the me who is always looking forward to the day I am back in the bosom of God but not necessarily rushing to get there.
In my aging process I will not scowl at the optimism of youth; I will remember that I, too, was once that young. If you don’t have hope for the future, what do you have? If you don’t occasionally look backwards, if only to see your progress, how will you know how to proceed? We learn and grow and then learn and grow some more until the moment we enter His Presence once more.
(Originally posted in March 2014)