“You have to be home by 10PM.”
This reminder from my parents during my teenage years seemed like such a drag on my youthful exuberance. When other friends had curfews of 11PM or later (!), I had to be in the door by 10PM. I knew my parents meant business about it too.
My, how times have changed. I can’t tell you the last time I voluntarily stayed out until 10PM. Ironically, what seemed like a punishment when I was a teenager is now what I want as an adult!
It just kinda happens, doesn’t it? You just…grow up. When I was in college, I would go with very little sleep. I liked sleep well enough but I could go to bed at 3 in the morning and get up for an 8AM class.
A few nights ago I didn’t get in until after 9PM from a meeting and then stayed up talking to Patty. By the time I got to bed it was midnight. My alarm went off at 5AM. I thought I was going to die. When did I get so old?!?!
King Solomon of Israel must’ve noticed the same thing in his own life. Certainly, the wisest man who ever lived observed this in the lives of humanity: our stamina goes down as our responsibilities go up. Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, the Teacher of Israel pens in Ecclesiastes 11:7-10:
7 Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. 8 However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. 9 You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.
Writing “light is sweet” is a Hebrew expression for “life is good”. Life is good and to live to see another day is a blessing. Thus, comes the admonition of verse 8: enjoy your life!
How many people do you know that when you talk to them they remind you of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh? “Woe is me. Life is so bad. This is wrong and that is wrong.” By the way, if you don’t know of anyone like that—I hate to be the one to break it to you—YOU are that person. Sorry.
While Solomon cautions us to not throw caution to the wind (because they’re a payday for all we do—verse 9), the wise enjoy life. It is especially wise to enjoy life when you’re young.
The carefree life of youth is often wasted on the young. Sadly, by the time we learn to enjoy our lives, we have too many responsibilities to be carefree about it. Scripture isn’t saying life stinks when you’re old and it’s all fun and games when you’re young. Not at all! Instead, King Solomon is making a statement about how life generally operates.
The reality for most of us is this: we have much less to lose when we’re young than when we’re old. We get more conservative and much less risky.
When I was living off of three hours of sleep a night, I wasn’t a husband, dad, and full-time pastor. My life is very different at 40 than it was at 19.
The Hebrew word translated “young” can mean “dawning” or refer to the dark hair of youth (as opposed to the gray hair of age). Our youth really is a time of dawning and we are taught in Scripture to enjoy our season of dawning (of course, within the confines of morality).
But even if you’re gray and full of responsibilities, remember the truth of verse 11: youth fades away and the lessons we learn of living a “good life” will stay with us until we arrive at our home in Heaven.