But then something happens and innocence is lost. Humanity asks God to get out of the boat, to step to the side. There is a rejection of God, God's authority, and God's leading. The "Youth" feels the need to individuate themselves, to be free. Only, this life away from God is no freedom at all, but they don't know this yet. It's naivety run amuck! But something good comes of it - this massive mistake leads them into desperation. A pleading, "Where are you? Why have you left me? I'm not going to make it! I need you... like, NOW!"
But what we see in the midst of this desperation is that God hasn't been far off at all. In fact, he's been there all along. And life isn't over - there is an adulthood to be lived, but now with God, just like it was in the beginning. The difference is that now they are savvy, wise, generous, and full of empathy for others. They now can be a vessel, showing God's grace and goodness simply because they have tasted of it themselves.
Finally, in the fourth and final piece, we see a man ready to find ultimate peace. He's ready to be escorted to heaven for a time of rest until, ultimately, heaven and earth are united just like in Jesus' prayer.
Cole sees four stages of life. But as a youth worker I keep finding myself going to the second painting. What it makes me think is that this kid needed someone else in that boat with him. He's isolated. I'm passionate about getting students out of isolation. Isolation stifles growth, hinders momentum, and keeps students (heck, it keeps all of us) stuck with no hope of forward motion. Just like Timothy, this youth needed a couple of people. He needed a Titus and he needed a Paul. Now this isn't going to keep hi from struggle, that's not the point.
Life's journey is not meant to be done alone and this kid is utterly alone. He needs some people with skin on. He needs a peer who is running in the same direction and he needs a mentor, a sage who is investing in both of them - giving them wisdom, being a listening ear, and allowing them to explore, make mistakes, try things out, all the while continuing to invest, invest and invest.
I remember telling our 8th grade confirmation students how doubt is both a really good thing, and a really bad thing. It is especially bad if done in isolation. In fact, doubt in isolation can lead to a lost faith. But if doubt is brought to the community, it can actually bring depth to shallowness. Doubt can bolster faith when expressed in community. This is true with all of life's difficulties: fear, anxiety, addiction, confusion of all sorts... when brought to the community will bring hope, perspective, restoration, and freedom.
This is one of the things that kid in the boat needed. Community can help bring him momentum! As youth workers, we must carry the vision for this. Why do students thrive on mission trips, at camps, and on retreats? A large part is because of community. Deep spirited friendship that is pointing us toward God. And when a student gets busy, when the noise of life gets loud, what happens? Many run into isolation. They end up heading down a river alone to face the impending rapids. They are going to need help. But if we have some blokes in the boat with us, not only is it going to be safer, it just might be more fun!