If I knew back then what I know right now,
You know I'd be the king of the ladies!
And if I knew back then what I know right now,
There'd be no ifs, and buts and no maybes!
- Extreme, "King of the Ladies" from Saudades de Rock
A few days ago my wife and I were watching the movie 17 Again. It's about a late-30s guy (about my age) named Mike O'Donnell who has made some mistakes in his life and wishes for a chance to do it all over again. George Bailey-style, he is granted his wish by an old crackpot guy; suddenly Mike is the age of a high-school senior. Of course, it's not 1989 any more; it's still the present day, and Mike winds up in school with his own daughter and son. He finds out some things about high school, about his daughter, and about his son that he probably would rather not have known; hilarity ensues, lessons are learned, and Mike gets to be is real age again, reconcile with his wife (who had been on the very edge of divorcing him), reconnect with his kids, and live happily ever after.
A few weeks before I had discovered the newest CD by an old favorite band named Extreme. The lyrics to one of their songs (quoted above) got me thinking: if I could take my 39 years of understanding of people, life, and particularly teenagers, back with me and get back into that high-school-age body, what would I do? Well, I certainly would do a better job with girls than I did then, because I've always been impossibly shy with females (my wife is the happiest exception to any rule that I've ever found in my life!) If I had the self-confidence that I have now instead of the self-doubt I had then, I imagine I would have had any number of girlfriends. It would be easy pickin's, I imagine... having the understanding of human beings that four decades brings, and unleashing it on unsuspecting teenage girls. Not a particularly fair match-up.
Mike in the movie did not to that, to my surprise. In fact, several girls pretty much threw themselves at him, making it clear that he didn't have to "respect them in the morning" or even, in one case, "...remember my name!" He didn't jump at the chance to use those very-available girls for pleasure. Instead, Mike spent all of his time on two projects: pursuing his adolescent dream of getting discovered by basketball scouts, and helping his kids get out of the messes that the kids had gotten themselves into (his son with getting picked on by peers, and his daughter with getting mixed up with a no-good boyfriend).
And that got me thinking... what would I really do if I could go back? Probably much of the same stuff I did at the time... I would probably still drag my Bible to school, go to school, go to youth group. Play trombone in the school band. But there would be a difference, because I would be different on the inside. On the outside I would be a zitty teenager, but on the inside I would be an adult. I would be inside the teenage world, like Mike O'Donnell, but I would not be a teenager. I would be an adult. I would be "other." If something happened that would have crushed me as a teenager, I would be able to laugh it off, knowing that as an adult, I probably wouldn't even remember it.
I would be "in" the teenage "world", but not "of" the teenage "world." Sound familiar?
So often I don't do something because of how it will affect me. I don't say something that I should say, because I'm afraid it will affect my social standing, or my career, or just my self-image. The Word makes it clear, though, that this world is very temporary (James 4:14) and that we should not consider it our home. One day I, and you too if you are a believer in Jesus, will "graduate" from the world in which we now live, and go on to the things God has in mind for us for eternity. I am no more a permanent resident of this world than a high-school senior is a permanent resident of his high school. Why should I care any more about the ins and outs of life pre-eternity than I would care about the social jockeying for position if I were 17 years old and back in high school?
Let's do what God has called on us to do, today, without reservation or timidity. Whatever age you are right now, and wherever you are socially, jobwise, schoolwise... you can't go back ten years from now and be in that exact same situation again. God has a job for you to do right now, right where you are. If you take yourself out of the picture, that job may not get done. God has a call for your life! Are you going to follow Him today?