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The third observation is about the naivete of youth. The interplay between Joseph's naivete and his spiritual experience deserves special attention. What if Joseph had been more reticent about sharing his dreams? What if he had shared his dreams only with his father- whom the story indicates would have considered his experience in a positive light? If this had happened, Joseph's spiritual development would undoubtedly have looked quite different from what it was. The story of David gives us yet another window on the biblical perspective on youth's spirituality.
According to biblical tradition, David was only 30 when he assumed the throne of Israel (2 Sam. 5:4), but years before he had been tested when he faced the awesome challenge of confronting the Philistine warrior, Goliath. At the time of this challenge, David's exact age is unknown, but it is likely that he was in his late teens-old enough that he could assume authority over others in military service (1 Sam. 18:5) but still youthful enough to be considered "only a boy" by both Saul (1 Sam. 17:35) and Goliath (1 Sam. 17:42). Furthermore, although he is old enough to oversee his father's flocks, he is not old enough to officially join the Israelite army (1 Sam. 17: 12-14).
Unlike in the case of Joseph, there is no indication that God communicated directly to the youthful David. Although he experienced himself as being anointed by God, through Samuel (1 Sam. 16:13), David does not appeal to this anointment or to any other mystical experience when he responds to Saul's skepticism by saying he can face Goliath. Instead, David appeals to past events in which God empowered him to succeed. "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine," he says, and Saul responds, "Go, and the Lord be with you" (1 Sam. 17:37).
In preparation for facing Goliath, David shuns offers of military garb designed for adult warriors. He relies instead on the clothing and weapons appropriate to his age and experience (1 Sam. 17:38-40). The message here may be that youth need to equip themselves for spiritual tasks in ways appropriate to their age. A third biblical example of the spirituality of youth occurs with Jesus' mother, Mary. Most New Testament scholars believe that Mary was a teenager when she became pregnant with Jesus. Her youthfulness stands in contrast to Elizabeth's being past the normal age for childbearing (Luke 1:7). If we assume this to be the case, then hers is the most prominent New Testament account of youthful spirituality-with the exception of Jesus' Temple experience when he was 12.
In the Christian tradition, Mary has long been acknowledged as offering a profoundly positive role model for those wishing to be faithful to God's call. This is shown particularly in her response to the angel Gabriel who announces the news of Jesus' impending birth. In spite of her natural fear, Mary willingly processes Gabriel's message. In fact, she demonstrates incredible poise and maturity as she questions the angel (Luke 1:26-37). Furthermore, she humbly submits to God's will even though it must have been, at the time, mystifying. She says, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be as you have said" (Luke 1:38).
In the Bible, then, we find children and youth depicted as developing spiritually inasmuch as they respond to or are led to respond to God's call and inasmuch as they are obedient to parents and teachers. In the Bible, we see children and youth capable of having significant spiritual experiences that help them develop into adults who can face life with courage, compassion, wisdom, and humility and who can continue to develop spiritually.