By David Hegg
The continuous stream of insightful comments made by our preschool granddaughters never ceases to amaze and delight me. Years ago, our daughter recounted an exchange with her 3-year old:
Mom: “Honey, you must take three more bites of your food because you’re 3 years old now.”
Granddaughter: “Can we pretend I’m 2?”
As I look around, I find there are far too many people still pretending they are young, still acting like children, still demanding to be adolescents. They refuse to accept the accountability that comes with age, much less the responsibility to look ahead, forge a plan, and become valuable adult contributors to society.
Sociologists now confirm what we’ve been secretly suspecting. Adolescence, which used to range from ages 12 to18, is now seen as stretching to age 30 in terms of behavior and self-concept. The 20-somethings today seemingly refuse to grow up. They often have no plan, change their residence every 18 months, go from job to job, and often end up over-extended in debt and under-employed. They are finding their feet much later, living life according to their changing whims, and depending on the resources of their parents much more than did previous generations.
I say it is time for these folks to stop pretending they are still in college, or for some, high school. It is time for them to realize we live in a scary, dangerous world where everything is not handed to you on a silver platter just because your third-grade teacher, and the rest of your formative world, were determined to drive up your self-esteem. In this world, you’ve got to make a plan, work hard to accomplish it, and even then, you may end up having to plow through great adversity to reach success. In this life, success is not a given, and to win the race you’ve got to run hard every day.
It is also time the 20-somethings grounded themselves in a philosophy of life that can actually carry them through the tough times. To continue living as experiential agnostics, as if no absolutes exist in our world, is simply to be playing with a closed mind and closed eyes. A worldview made up of extreme skepticism (life sucks!) Ironically welded to the myth that self-esteem brings about accomplishment (If I think I can do it, then it’s mostly done!) is not only intellectually vacuous, but felony stupid. And, most importantly, stop thinking that your happiness depends on the circumstances around you rather than the character inside you. It is time for these folks – and all the rest of us who may be sleeping in the light – to look around at the mess our world is in, and determine what our part is in holding back the forces that are eroding our lives.
Much of the blame for this discouraging phenomenon can be laid at the feet of those demanding we see this world as composed only of physical chemical processes. These scientific naturalists have ripped any spiritual meaning from life. They refuse to admit that, at the human core, there is a longing for wholeness that no laboratory can ever fill. We are more than the sum of our atomic bits. We have a capacity that is not found elsewhere in creation. We have a consciousness that demands belief in an understanding of humanity that includes a significant immaterial dimension. And it is in the realm of the immaterial – the spiritual – that our deepest longings will be met, and our greatest love expressed.
Yes, it’s time to stop pretending. Time to stop pretending age doesn’t bring responsibility and the accompanying accountability. Time to stop pretending that self-esteem can produce achievement without hard work. Time to stop pretending we can exchange the structure of our DNA. And definitely time to stop pretending we are nothing more than a randomly configured set of atomic particles set on this earth without an ultimate purpose.
Life matters, and all lives matter, and it’s time we stopped pretending we can live this life without considering our responsibility to honor the God who created us, to whom we all are ultimately accountable.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.