Sweet 16

Posted by Administrator on 4/1/2014
Our adopted niece (and daughter’s best friend) recently turned sixteen, and it got me to thinking about where the phrase “Sweet Sixteen” originated or what it really means. I’m not sure my research garnered all the answers, but it has raised some tasty thoughts on which to chew. “Sweet Sixteen” is apparently a variation of the turning of age concept associated with bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs (which celebrate Jewish boys turning into young men at age thirteen, and Jewish girls turning into young women at age twelve) and quinceañera celebrations among Hispanic families when their daughters turn fifteen and become young ladies. (Does anyone else find it interesting that we have extended our date for becoming “of age” by some three and four years from where God’s chosen people place it?) Anyway, it was really the “sweet” concept that that got me thinking. Why is that term associated with this sixteenth birthday?

Well, here’s the closest answer I can ascertain: when Jewish young men celebrate their bar mitzvahs, in many congregations, it is customary to throw candy at the bar mitzvah boy—after he has completed his chant of that week’s Torah and Haftarah portions—in order to wish him a "sweet" life as he makes the transition to adulthood. It is also interesting to note that many Jewish synagogues have a candy man who passes out sweets to the young children as they leave the synagogue so that they will associate their religious experience with something sweet. I have been told that the weekly service actually used to have a short segment in the service during which the children in the shul (synagogue) were given  some sort of sweet treat, and they were reminded that the Torah is even sweeter than honey.

What a wonderful concept! We in the Christian faith should promote this idea of God’s Word and being in His house regularly with sweetness. We must encourage our young men and women who are entering adulthood (regardless of the numeric age) to pursue the deliciousness and tastefulness of the Scriptures. We should exhort them to seek having a sweet relationship with their God above all else. David said, "I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD." (Psalm 104:32, 33) David also pronounced, "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103) And the writer of Proverbs 3 added these truths, "So they [wisdom and discretion] will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet." (Proverbs 3:22-24) And we are told to be a sweet savour or sweet fragrance among unbelievers: “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Cor. 2:15)

Turning of age, becoming a sixteen-year-old, reaching the age of adulthood…whatever you want to call it…is a time that should be focused on what our young people are becoming in God’s eyes, not what they are gaining in society’s eyes. Who really cares that they can now get a job without having to apply for a special job permit? Does it truly matter that this teenager can now attempt to get his driver’s license? Who cares about being unkissed at a certain age? What we as parents should be focusing on as our young people approach adulthood is how sweet God’s truths and God’s will are to them. We should desire that they want to praise God and seek His Word above all else. We should pray that they walk in the way of wisdom and discretion so that their sleep is sweet, and so their testimonies are delectable to the world around them.

We are so blessed that Anna’s life (our adopted niece’s life) is truly a sweet sixteen celebration. She is seeking to understand His will for her future. She is using her talents to serve her Lord. And she is living a life that shows the sweet relationship she has with her God. Anna matured to that point well before her sixteenth birthday celebration, by the way. And we are excited to see what God does with the sweet fragrance of her life in the future. May my four children who have yet to reach “sweet sixteen” be equally as clear in their testimonies and relationships with our Lord, by God’s grace! And may my two who are past their sixteenth birthday continue to live in a manner that is sweet before our Lord.