THE DAYS OF YOUTH AND DREAMS

By DANNY MINTON

When I was young, my friend and I would climb a tree and jump from the branches like we were parachuting from a plane. There were two levels–a low jump of about four feet, and when we were brave enough, a six-foot drop.

When I was young, another friend and I would ride around the elementary school playground. One day he was the Lone Ranger, and I was Tonto, and the next we would switch roles. 

When I was young, I would lie in the grass and gaze at the stars at night, hoping to see a “shooting star” make its way streaking across the night sky.

When I was young, my brother and sister and I would grab a jar, punch holes in the top and go out at night, capturing “lightning bugs” as they twinkled on and off in the darkness.

When I was young, I dreamed of being an astronaut. I wore a cape and pretended to fly through the air like Superman. I built a fort and fought off Indians. I hit the game-winning home run in the World Series and struck out Mickey Mantle. 

When I was young, I dreamed dreams and never once thought that anything I dreamed was impossible. I could do anything and be anybody when I was young.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that men could not fly with a cape. I discovered that it was politically incorrect to fight “Indians” and that Tonto was a Native American, just as heroic as the Lone Ranger. I was told that old people don’t capture “lightning bugs,” climb trees or lie in the grass. Along the way it became harder and harder to dream dreams without sifting them through a myriad of analytic questions. 

Somewhere I was told along the way that as I grew older that I had to be more mature and an example to the youth. I was told I had to act like an adult.

I listened to the enthusiasm of young people excited about serving people and the Lord. There was life! There was hope! There was excitement! Their minds were filled with dreams of what could be done. There was no time to listen to analytical questions of why something might not work. They just wanted to be Jesus.

I listened to the story of a dream that started in a swimming pool. There was no “should we do this or not,” it was how are we going to do this. There was life! There was hope! There was excitement. 

I listened to a member this week talk about how churches in small towns are dying, becoming smaller and may soon just vanish. The youth, in many cases, do not darken the doors. Life has other things. 

I have heard so many times about the youth of today and what they are and are not doing. I have heard how they are leaving the church and in most cases, not connected anywhere. I’ve heard what’s wrong with this generation.

Maybe, just maybe, the issue is not just the youth. Maybe, just maybe a big part of the problem in the church is those of us who are older. Maybe we’ve stopped dreaming! We tell ourselves we can’t fly, so we don’t even try. 

Maybe we’ve let too many whys and why nots keep us from moving forward. We are so concerned that someone may ridicule us for lying in the grass that we no longer look at the stars.

Maybe we get bogged down in opinions. Do we stand around and try to decide how many holes to put in the top of the jars and let daylight come, and the “lightning bugs” vanish in the sunlight? 

As our bodies grow older, our minds don’t necessarily have to follow. We should long to have the wisdom that comes with age but keep the dreams, the enthusiasm and the optimism of our youth. If leaders can learn to do this the church is destined to thrive. 

Tonight, go outside, lie on the grass, or use a lawn chair if you like, but go outside and spend time looking at the stars and dream.

_______________

Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—Ecclesiastes 12:1

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.

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