The Best Years of My Life?
I was often told by well-meaning adults that the years of my youth would be the best of my life. But in many ways, these years were anything but wonderful. Although things at home were Christ-centered, stable, and supportive, life at school was positively miserable. I remember vowing to remember what it was really like when I was young. Life was full of formidable hardships and hurts.
Now that I’m older, it is much clearer that every life-stage is filled with tests, trials, and tribulations. They are inherent to the fabric of life within a fallen world. For many, however, it is all too easy to see the past through rose-colored glasses, only recalling the joys and few, if any, of the sorrows. In retrospect, the years of youth particularly seem like a time filled with wonder, strength, and beauty. We long to be young again.
The Price of Wisdom
Part of this longing, I think, is produced by the physical reality of aging. Herein lies a study in contrast. On the one hand, with age comes wisdom. And for this reason, I would not want to return to the foolish naiveté of youth for anything. But wisdom comes with an unavoidable price—the price of both physical and emotional injury. And while the emotional toll is immensely important, it is to the physical my thoughts have turned lately.
With time comes decay. Eventually, our bodies wear out and stop working well. Ever since the fall, physical pain and death are an inevitable part of life. In some way, shape, or form, we all experience the debilitating effects of sin and our bodies start “giving up the ghost.” For some, that relinquishing comes sooner and exacts a greater cost.
Properly understood, this can help us contemplate the fleeting and fragile nature of material existence. My early-onset deafness and chronic back and neck pain (for example) have forced me to face my mortality.
The Longing to Be Whole
In the midst of it all, we often find ourselves longing for the bodies of our youth when we heard and saw with unaided clarity, when we woke up without a morning backache and aching joints, when we had rock-hard stomachs and baby-soft skin. In short, we long to be strong and young and whole again.
The world also has this God-given longing, but without any real prospects for a permanent reformation. The best they can hope for are more painkillers, a shot of cortisone, a botox injection, a tummy tuck, and a facelift.
The Source of Real Hope
In blessed contrast, believers are given “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . ., an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved [for us] in heaven” (1 Peter 1:3-4). There, we will see without glasses, hear without microcircuits and air-zinc batteries, and live without pain. There will be no more death, agony, or aging. Thank God, we will finally and unceasingly be whole.