Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Youth of Zion

True to the Faith

Shall the youth of Zion falter
In defending truth and right?
While the enemy assaileth,
Shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!
(Hymn 254)

Time was, I thought this hymn applied to me. In fact, I often catch myself thinking that it still does. But it hit me the other day as I was sitting in mutual opening exercises that all of the sudden this wasn't necessarily the case. You see, shocking as it may sound, I am no longer considered a Youth.

I've known that for some time now. When I left Bellevue for BYU I realized that I was also in transit between Young Women's and Relief Society and that I was effectively leaving my "younger" teenage self behind in exchange for my new young adult self. But there was that word again: "young" adult. And so I had no problem continuing to nurture the illusion that I was still peripherally connected to the Youth of Zion. Even when Nick and I were married, we were "newlyweds," a word that conveys some sort of youthful renewal. Today we're still "new parents." But somewhere in between Deseret Towers, Uruguay, and Sandy I suddenly became adult material.

I think the thing that finalized that transition I began after high school was serving in the Young Women's program in our ward. All of the sudden I'm the adult. I make decisions. I drive kids home from Mutual. I help them with their homework. (Ok, Nick does more of the helping since he can do math, but I'm very supportive.) I just taught a lesson about the importance of homemaking.... And the odd thing is, even though I'm closer in age to the young women, I'm starting to naturally identify with the other adults as my peers. (Even though several are old enough to be my mother. In fact, one of my favorite friends in the YW is older than my mother.) But at the same time, I often feel like I'm just fooling everyone by putting on a particularly convincing act of adultivity. I have the husband, the baby, the dog, the degree ... of course I'm an adult!

So why do I still find myself thinking of "True to the Faith" in terms of "our" (as in the youth of the church) hymn? What made the difference? When did I stop being one of the youth? How do we actually grow up, and when we do, are we just acting a part that "looks right"?

And what's my new hymn as an adult?


Nick said...

Being an adult is overrated. I much prefer thinking of myself as a youth still, much to your chagrin. Its part of the key to staying young- keep on thinking of yourself as young.

As for the "adult hymn", how about- The time is far spent? or As the shadows fall? or Does the journey seem long?

Jenny said...

I know I give you a bad time sometimes about thinking that you're just one of the teaches/priests ... but actually in some respects I think it's good to "think young/stay young." I mean, that's part of the connundrum I keep running into--I really don't feel much older than my young women but society thinks that I am.

But another question is why do you desire to be young? What is it about being youthful that we find so attractive? My teenage years were all right, but I'm certainly thankful that they're behind me.... Maybe the paradox is that for society in general, I am still a youth--I only have one other friend from high school who's married, and the majority of my friends are still living the "young" life. However, in the context of the church, I'm now an adult and therefore have adult responsibilities.

Nick said...

I don't think it's a question of "actually" being young, but of being in a youthful frame of mind and have youthful attitudes, passions, etc...

I guess I should define what I mean by "young" and "youthful": I don't mean irresponsible, naive, young-looking, clueless, etc. I mean energetic, joking, desire to have fun, willing/have desire to learn, doesn't take oneself too seriously, adventurous, etc.

My favorite youth leaders growing up were really just big kids (even though most were all over 50). They had a youthful passion for life. I just fear becoming the stodgy high priest that grumbles when he sees youth being youth...

Erin said...

First, I just want to put it in writing that I'm crazy about the Webbs and I'm tickled plumb pink that you invited me (I'm singing when I say that.)
Last night on public television there were two programs back to back about aging. The first one said that aging is wonderful and to not let society say anything to the contrary. The guy said that with the baby boomers quickly running up (maybe hobbling up) the age scale, we would likely see a new perspective on aging. This guy had a slighly round belly and a full beard--he looked like Lazar Wolfe from Fiddler on the Roof.
The next program was by a doctor who talked about being younger that you really are just by taking care of your veins and arteries. He seemed to think that the worst thing that could happen would be for someone to be as old as they really are. They were interesting, I guess, but the day before there had been another program on PBS about this guy in Alaska who builds his own cabin with hand tools and lives up there alone for 30 years. That programs really got my heart a-thumpin'.
I like what you say about youthfulness, Nick. I know some pretty stale young people and some people in their 70+ years who are fresh as a daisy--(we had a Relief Society activity last week where one of those 75+ taught us some dances like boot scoot boogie and the jitterbug. It was fun.) It's weird, though, to be the one who's saying to your class, "you know, I'm really not that much older than you are." I teach 12-14 sunday school and I don't think they'd believe it if I told them that.

Jenny said...

I just have to say, Erin, that as a former English 115 teacher, I am completely impressed by your voice in your writing. It's like having in the bedroom across the hall again! And the comment you make at the end
It's weird, though, to be the one who's saying to your class, "you know, I'm really not that much older than you are." I teach 12-14 sunday school and I don't think they'd believe it if I told them that.
hits the imaginary nail on its proverbial head (I really just wanted to say proverbial): whenever I try the "it's only been a few years since I was where you are" line on my young women, their body language conveys such powerful disbelief that even a blind person could read it.

JonnyF said...

A similar thing happened to me. I was called to be the Secretary of the Young Men's Presidency shortly after moving into this ward. While introducing myself to the youth a said something about being closer in age to them than I was to the other Youth Leaders. I don't think they believed me, even though it's true.
I have lots of thoughts on youth and aging, but they will have to wait to be expressed a little longer since I don't have time. . .