“Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways. . .” – Psalm 25:7
“When I was a boy of fourteen,” Mark Twain once said reflecting on his adolescence, “my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Of course, the comedy in this story lies in Mark Twain’s cleverness at self-deprecation, which was not at all aimed at his father’s ignorance but his own – or perhaps more politely his own immaturity. I can sympathize with Mark Twain, for as a teenager I must surely have been guilty from time to time of sharing the same sentiments about my own father before experiencing at a more mature age an epiphany about his wisdom. But later my ignorance – or immaturity I should say – carried on in other ways. For instance, in my twenties and thirties I considered people in their sixties and seventies to be old. But by the time I began to approach that age myself I was astonished how much younger in a mere thirty or forty years that age group had become.
Maturity is always life’s best teacher, and in fact the only source for gaining true wisdom. The problem is there are no shortcuts for accumulating it, only time and experience. Too often we lament the mistakes and missteps of our youth. “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways . . .” King David once begged of God in a prayer recorded in Psalm 25. Although David’s sins and rebellious ways – as well as our own mistakes and transgressions – may remain regretful to us they are nonetheless teaching moments and stepping stones along our pathway toward maturity.
So we continue to travel down that pathway, even though in this life we can never hope to gain complete wisdom. But we do pick some up little by little as we progress in our respective journeys through life. And it’s astonishing how much one can learn in just seven years – even more so thirty or forty.