The news is filled with stories of young people performing record-breaking feats of athleticism, from Zac Sunderland and Jessica Watson, two teens who recently sailed solo around the world, to Jordan Romero, 13, who this year became the youngest person ever to summit Mount Everest. Now a boy from Nepal, 9-year-old Tseten Dorje, will attempt to break that record by climbing the world's highest peak. Some argue that these adventures should only be reserved for adults; that kids are in no physical condition to undertake such feats, feats that could take a severe toll on their young bodies (and are usually backed up by ambitious parents).
What do you think? Does inherently dangerous record-setting have an age limit? Or can these feats encourage kids to reach for their dreams? What would you say to parents who wish to send their kids on an adventure that requires the skills and stamina of someone twice their age?
There is nothing to be gained by taking foolhardy risks, especially for young people who may not yet be masters of their own decision-making, and when the parent may have lofty ambitions for the child. And yet, while great care is needed, we should not stifle genuine possibilities, whatever the age.
That said, the athletic success of young adventurers gives a hint that it is often possible to go beyond established limitations. Some limitations are well grounded in experience and common sense; others may be more what society has grown to accept. We sometimes forget, too, that our adult limitations are frequently self-imposed, and it's easy to overlook that a child is typically not belabored by the opinions and conclusions that limit the adult.
Each individual inherently possesses a relationship to God that guides us throughout our lives, the "still, small voice" heard by the prophet Elijah after realizing that God does not create doom (see 1 Kings 19). In that sense, we benefit ourselves and our offspring when we know that God governs our being, regardless of age or circumstance.
Adults have much to learn from young people, not in being childish, but in cherishing and utilizing the childlike innocence and fearless confidence that is actually native to each of us because we each have that God-inspired spiritual side. The challenge is to be aware of this in the face of odds that otherwise look daunting.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, wrote in "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures, "Jesus loved little children because of their freedom from wrong and their receptiveness of right. While age is halting between two opinions … youth makes easy and rapid strides, " for example, in realizing what can be done.
Perhaps the question isn't so much whether restrictions should be placed on the attempted feats of young persons — indeed, there is reason not to attempt what is truly unrealistic — as what we all can learn from seeing the childlike attributes that we all have, in dismissing unrealistic fears and unlocking our own true potential.
Regional Assistant, Committee on Publication
First Church of Christ, Scientist,
La Cañada Flintridge
I'm uncertain that this question is especially spiritual in nature, except that maybe man, even immature man, can do amazing things, and by so doing, glorify God who created him. God is amazing, and he's made man amazing. In his foreknowledge, God knew that he would incarnate as that amazing creature, with the purpose of redeeming us. He didn't come as a talking wolf or some bizarre possible creature of divine machination, he came as Jesus, and Genesis says "in the image of God he created" (Genesis 1:20). Its meaning has been debated in Christianity for millennia. Did God mean "spiritually" or "spiritually and physically," since he knew in what form this incarnation of mankind would take?
Whatever the theological ramifications, God made us unique among living things, and by nature we seek the impossible; we push the limits, and we enter the Guinness Book of World Records. History records the efforts of those brave enough to venture peaks, push limits and lift records. We seek greatness and through this, God is glorified.
As for age, just this past weekend I took my child to a spiritual father/daughter weekend excursion at Hume Lake in the Sequoias. At one point, my 9 -year-old was flying past me on a 600-foot-high zip line across a pond assailed by lightening bolts. We were tripping! Two fingers up, big smiles all around; she was in the zone, and I was happy to provide her the opportunity. Perhaps this will give her oomph in adulthood to stretch and attain greatness. I can only hope.
I can't judge parental choice in supporting childhood spectacular endeavors, but when it's right, you know. These amazing things glorify God, be they Christian or even pagan. But it's the Christian accomplishments that last beyond death. Winning a spot in "history's greatest" is cool, but someone will succeed that is better, faster or more talented and accomplished, and temporal accomplishments fade away. That's why the Bible reminds us, "whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church,