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0907 PD: The fountain of youth

Yevet Tenney Published on 31 August 2007

Ponce De Leon was an explorer from the 1500s who discovered Florida. Florida must have been beautiful because the word Florida in Spanish means flowery, but Ponce De Leon was not interested in flowers. He was interested in a legend that told of a fountain of water that flowed freely, giving all who drank of it perpetual youth. Of course tragically, he never found the fountain.

America is obsessed with the Ponce De Leon syndrome. Billions of dollars change hands yearly as people try to make themselves look and feel younger. Like Ponce De Leon, they miss the glorious discoveries in this journey called life.

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When I was in college, I took a marriage relationship class. One day one of the girls in the class brought in a magazine that had an old man on the cover. He was white-haired and scraggly with missing front teeth.

“I just don’t know if I could ever get married,” she said. “It would be horrible to be married to someone like this.”

I had never thought about being married to an old man. I just knew that when my husband got old, I’d be old too, and it wouldn’t matter. Future age certainly wasn’t a reason on which to base one’s present decisions, but as the years went by, I started to realize there is geriatric paranoia rampant in society. People are terrified of getting old!

Every day I check my email, and there is an advertisement for some new skincare product that promises the Ponce De Leon Special. Invariably the advertisement has a beautiful, young face on half the picture and an aged, winkled face on the other half. Another advertisement shows a pruny, wrinkled face, and with a swipe of the cursor, the face turns instantly young and beautiful. The television is covered with advertisements that promise weight loss and the vigor of youth. Get out your credit card and get two for the price of one! What they don’t tell you is the price for searching for the illusive dream is much too high. Humans can’t focus on two things at once. If we are tied to our mirrors searching for wrinkles and ways to control them, we can’t focus on the beauties of the golden years.

An enemy’s arrow killed Ponce De Leon, in the prime of his life. I wonder if he regretted giving up the reality of his discoveries for an elusive phantom dream. He could have made pathways to peace with the Native Americans and enjoyed the wonders of the New World for many years to come, but he climbed the wrong ladder.

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God intended human beings to live in seasons. Spring, summer, fall and winter. Each season has messages and lessons for us to learn.

In the springtime or our childhood, we ask a million questions. We taste, touch, smell and listen to the wonders around us. We don’t worry if our faces get dirty. We even eat mud. We splash through puddles and dig through the garbage. We cuddle toads and snakes and kiss furry kittens. We don’t worry about germs or parasites. We simply want to learn. And learn we do. We learn the rules of school, the rules of society and how to survive.

The other night I watched a little boy with a flower. He picked the flower, rubbed it across his cheek, smelled it and turned it over and over in his hand, examining it closely. He pointed to each part to have me name it for him, and he repeated the name again and again. Then he repeated the process of smelling, rubbing it on his cheek and examining the flower over and over. His mind was centered on learning about the flower. He stayed with the project until he knew the flower; then he went off to discover something else.

Our season of summer comes as we enter teenage years. Teenagers are reckless and full of life. They still want to discover, but they push the boundaries of life searching for their own identity. Self-awareness starts to get in the way of their happiness. They notice the zit that pops out on their nose. They notice how everyone else is dressed, and they are horrified if they don’t look like everybody else. Of course, they do crazy things like paint their hair purple like their friends so they can show their individuality. They are a pack of contradictions. Peers become more important than family.

Summer ends with marriage and responsibility for a career and family. Our minds turn outward, and we learn to accept ourselves for who we are. We bring children into the world and rediscover childhood with them. We see the world through their eyes, but we have the wisdom to keep them from danger. We take on the responsibility of life, and if we allow ourselves to mature, we are happy with the results of our lives.

Autumn comes with our children becoming adults. We find joy in sharing the wisdom we have discovered along the way. Our careers become more meaningful, and we recognize the accomplishments we have made. We find joy in our children and emerging grandchildren. If we are mature, we find great satisfaction in other’s accomplishments, and we serve others with selflessness.

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Finally, winter comes. We slow down, and the world comes to us. Life becomes precious as we see it slipping away. We remember our youth as we share it freely with our grandchildren. We tie up loose ends and share our wisdom with future generations. If we are mature, we find joy in our ability to share. There comes a point in winter when we must depend on those we love for care. That season is a sweet time when you quietly rejoice in the service you have given to others and know you are teaching your children how to accept service with dignity and appreciation.

This pattern of seasons in life is healthy and good, but many women today are fighting the system that God set up, and like Pounce De Leon, they are searching for the Fountain of Youth. They stymie in the teenage years. They try to dress and act like teenagers. They stress their bodies with extreme diets and exercise regimes. They are handcuffed to the bathroom mirror and drag the bathroom scales with them wherever they go. One pound is a major disaster, and a bad hair day is cause for immediate depression. They do not give themselves a chance to notice the beauties around them, or give themselves fully to their children and grandchildren. One day they will come to the end of their lives and realize they have climbed the wrong ladder.

What do we do to allow our season to come and go with dignity? The key is in this scripture from Matthew 18: 1-4 (KJV):

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Gaining childlike curiosity, humility and an insatiable desire to learn is the goal. As we journey through the seasons of our lives, if we are humble and teachable, God will help us to accept and rejoice in each season of our lives. His love will permeate our lives with such intensity that we will have no desire to be anything more or less than what God wants us to be. The frustration of teenage self-inspection and sorrow over not being acceptable will fade away. We will become the glorious beings we were intended to be.

Some of us will be tall and thin, some will be short and plump and some will be medium, while some will look like supermodels. That is okay! We will have an inner glow that shines from our souls. No one will notice the wrinkles that spread across our face when we smile. No one will care if we are a few pounds heavier than the average. In fact, children will rejoice that they have a soft grandma to hug and cuddle against when they climb on her lap. That is the way it was intended to be.

The Fountain of Youth is a phantom place where only sorrow waits. Becoming as “a little child” is a spiritual place where perpetual youth is waiting to be discovered. That is the way God intended it to be. PD

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