It’s not often that in casual reading of a fictional short story one simple phrase will make me stop to reflect. But the veracity of this statement seemed worth considering: “This is the period when your brain and your heart form and solidify.”
It brought to mind the argument I developed to convince my parents that I had to start piano lessons before the age of 13 or my fingers and my brain would be set and lessons wouldn’t do any good. I no longer hold to the accuracy of that argument, but I freely admit that my brain has decided that it’s past its time for understanding the difference between differential and integral (or any other kind of) calculus, or distinguishing between old school, underground, east/west coast, hardcore (or any other kind of) rap music; and many things like that.
As parents we must believe that there is a window of opportunity when children need to be exposed to certain experiences as part of their formation: band, drama, chorus, gymnastics, karate, baseball, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, piano, painting, robotics, debate, moot court, and many, many things like that. We only have some precious short years to lay a foundation before they are sent off to college, work or seek other ventures.
But about the things that form the heart? And at what point does the heart solidify, harden, close? We believe that the church plays an essential role in the heart and soul formation at every stage of life. But, clearly, there is a critical time when the heart is open, tender or malleable before forces, patterns or circumstances enter into play.
And that is why we allocate time, space, money, personnel, and all manner of resources on behalf of our children and youth. Living proof was the joyful welcoming and commissioning of one of our own as the new Director of Youth Ministries last Sunday. Alissa Pazienza was able to single out several people who played a role in her heart, mind, soul and religious formation and now she is able to play an important role in the formation of another generation.
Meanwhile, all of us have a new opportunity to tend to matters of the heart this week as we share in The Lord’s Supper this Sunday and a few days later enter into the Lenten Season with the Ash Wednesday Service, when we pray once again: “Create in me, a clean heart, O God.”
There is still time.