Toward the latter part of this period, a questioning in regard to Divine things may come, but a questioning unmixed with the doubt of later years. “And when He was twelve years old, ... they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions.” With this desire to know reasons for belief comes the teacher’s golden opportunity for strengthening the foundations of faith through history and the testimony of ancient monuments, where it can be adduced, through experience and through God’s Word itself.
May nurture be so true to God and the life that the child shall leave his childhood and face the dawn of manhood as that One of old with the eager heart and heavenly vision, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”
Between the quiet unfolding of childhood and the full development of maturity, there lies a period so fraught with danger and so filled with opportunity, that it is rightly considered life’s crisis. A mistake at this point is more disastrous than at any other, while wisdom in dealing with the soul never has such rich reward.
In a general way, this period, known as Adolescence, extends with boys from about twelve to twenty-four, and with girls from about eleven to twenty-one, or from the beginning of manhood and womanhood to full maturing.
A study of the conditions that obtain during these years clearly reveals the reason for their crucial character.
1. It is an awakening time of new possibilities, physical, mental, moral and spiritual.
We are already familiar with the peril and opportunity that attend the first stages of any development, because the future direction and strength of the possibility are then so largely determined. When we realize that the highest possibilities of the soul, as well as some of the lowest, are now unfolding, the gravity of the period is apparent.
The changes that come with the soul’s awakening are so great, that often the youth becomes a stranger to those who know him best. Ideals, ambitions, feelings, thoughts and power only dimly, if ever, recognized in childhood take possession of the life. A new conception of God is born and a larger sense of responsibility to Him, to the neighbor and to the world. In these awakening possibilities are heard the siren voices of passion, society, wealth and fame and the clear call of self-sacrifice and duty, and the soul is bewildered, not knowing which to heed. Surely nurture is needed, for the choices of Adolescence are in all probability the choices of eternity.
2. These are the years of the greatest susceptibility to influence.
Everything that comes to the life now has an impelling force that it did not have in childhood. Life is in a state of unstable equilibrium, and a touch may move it. The influence of one book, of one friend, of one hasty word of criticism or passing word of encouragement may determine the future of a soul.