Youth today are living to optimize their economic futures. The pipeline is this: middle school resume building to get into the right high school to build a resume to get into college to build a resume to get into a career. Culturally, helicopter parenting is standard: parents manage their children’s schedules, course loads, free time, extra-curricular commitments, surveil their communications much like the NSA, and more. Just last week the logical extension of that helicopter parenting phenomenon hit the news with the college admissions scandal (helicopter parents with money will do anything to get their kids into school, as it turns out). Far more scandalous, I think, is the burden of debt on poor and middle-class education, systemic barriers to minorities, and the legal ways of paying your way past meritocracy. Consider for a moment how youth might experience these forces which exert such control over them.
Even so, we cannot wipe away the realities of life in America. I certainly do not mean to suggest we abandon the drive for individual excellence and a robust, rewarding life for our young people. What I do mean to suggest is that a life of faith should offer a counterbalance or strong corrective to the alternative of unfettered cultural forces which diminish us.
During Lent, we are reminded of our mortality. But, we are not reminded for the sake of morbid self-reflection. We need companions along this Lenten journey who remind us of what we find in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
There is something eternal within us, the essence of our being, value, and human personhood which is from God. What is eternal within us can neither be added to or taken from by our achievements or failures, nor our economic worth or lack thereof. Our bodies are imperfect and age—change swirls around us, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. But, in our youth community, we hold on to one another and share reminders of what is eternal within us every time we gather.
Lenten companionship is about sharing life with one another fully. In doing so, our faith in God will lead to hope beyond our present circumstances and hope for today. And that is good.