It’s time for another prophetic rant. Before I began let me share the parts of creation I enjoy the most. My favorite pastoral responsibility is counseling young couples and performing weddings. I never feel like I’ve done enough. My favorite ministry activity is simply becoming friends with single young adults and asking for them to follow. I like silly activities and idealistic debates. I believe that out of both youthful awkward and immature moments something profound happens. I’ve studied the mating rituals of humanity my whole life and I’ve never found another part of creation so fascinating.
Now, let the rant begin. I like single young men. I like single young women. I don’t get why it increasingly seems so hard for them to participate in the age old mating rituals of humanity. I know young women who I think are beautiful in body and spirit who no boy can find the courage to ask out on a date. I meet young men who I would be happy if they asked one of my treasured young women out on a date. However, they seem so afraid of rejection that they cannot find the courage to become fools. I watch both genders delay adolescence as they collect new experiences. I hear them discuss all their dreams and plans for the future. It includes education and professional accomplishment. It includes ideals of “changing the world.” Yet, I don’t hear often enough “I love ____ and no matter what I choose ____. I want to spend the rest of my life with ____. We hope to ____, but more than that we will journey together.”
I ponder if both genders have watched too many movies, surfed the internet too frequently, been disappointed by reality; and simply cannot settle into an ordinary life and entrust the extraordinary to our magnificent God.
I observe a strange irony. The pursuit of the illusion of sophistication without commitment maintains biological and sociological immaturity. The pursuit of the reality of immaturity with commitment begins the journey of biological and sociological maturity. You see, we are designed to reproduce in the silly, but solemn mating rituals of humanity.
I propose that we would see more maturity if we turned young men lose to stockpile toys. Let immaturity reign and the illusion of maturity pass. Allow me to tell embarrassing stories of masculinity.
I’ve always liked three types of stores – books, sports, and toy stores. I stop by hardware or computer stores to gather work tools (though sometimes work tools are just masquerading toys.) I shop at grocery stores because I am hungry. I shop at clothes stores to keep the females in my life happy. However, I am drawn to stores of play by my deepest instincts. I like Mad Magazine, bb guns, footballs, fishing rods, running shoes, roller blades, worms, leeches, hats, camouflage, baseball gloves, ice skates, toboggans, bikes, gyms, trains, planes, cars, puppies, and even the smell of an old man’s garage. I am a boy. This is what I do. I’ve played since I could walk. My best friends are those with whom I play. On occasion between our play we discuss the meaning of life, but deep down we know the meaning of life is best seen in our play. Even when tragedy strikes when we’re near the end of grief we find a way to celebrate again in play. I’ve had many friends in life, but the best ones are the ones who were my teammates in play. We may bicker among ourselves. We may not see one another for years. However, if we played hard together we can pick up many years later and again be good friends. Those who I admire most are those a few years older who taught me the skills of play. What I do well is because I followed someone who did it just a little better than me. I like it when someone younger and more talented than I follows me for a season while I show him an old trick. I hope the best for him. I trust his future will be good. In fact, I find myself dreaming of his future. Our human future is guaranteed as long as boys play.
About 20 years ago a few friends and I were being silly and stopped at a toy store. We were at that age at which our mom no longer bought us toys for Christmas, but we still loved toy stores. College provided an experience where we could still play while we learned professional skill and social competence. We noticed toys on sale and stumbled onto the profound. We may never see this sale again. In fact, it may be the last chance for us or our prodigy to have this unique toy. While the sophisticated pondered the meaning of life we knew what it was today. We must have these toys. We purchased and began to stockpile toys. We saved for the future and it was children at play.
The girls who heard of our toy stockpiling had their concerns. Maybe, the biggest was their realization that despite the cards, flowers, and romantic dates; we saw them as the pathway to younger playmates. In fact, shortly after we married these girls would joke amongst themselves that we needed to have a child so “we would have someone to play with.” They caught on, but it was too late.
We’ve since accomplished a few things, but also had seasons of struggles. We have a few titles and accomplishments to put on resumes. We’ve learned a few lessons through the school of hard knocks. Life has not given us all we dreamed of, but it has been good. In fact, in many ways our best times have been the seasons with the most difficulties. We are never alone. Our home is full of both laughter and bickering, but it is full of life. Our future is entrusted to our newest playmates, and we believe it will be good.
One of my wisest choices of my life was to stockpile toys. So my advice for both single young men and women reflects this silly story. Life cannot be predicted or managed. Pain is inevitable. Joy is a choice. Community is essential. We discover by embracing the foolish. Stockpile toys for the future and say yes when a toy hoarder asks you on a date.