Wednesday, January 16, 2013

If I Were 18 Again ... By Clifford Goldstein

For centuries thinkers have speculated about “the myth of eternal return,” the idea that everything that has happened will be repeated throughout eternity. The history of the earth and every life on it plays out again and again: same nations, same natural disasters, same marriages, same wars, same people, same football scores—nothing changes.

We can thank the Lord that “the myth of the eternal return” is just that—a myth. Sin, suffering, and death are a one-time package deal only. (Once is enough, too—thank you!) I would, though, like to borrow this idea of a repeated life, but with a major caveat: unlike “eternal return,” in which everything is the same, if I were to become 18 years old again, what would I do differently? Knowing what I know now—at 57, and with 39 more years of experience behind me—how would I choose to live?

The first thing I would do differently is immediately give my life to Christ, because I understand how helpless I am against forces that are so much bigger than I am. At 18 I had no idea just how cold, uncaring, and unforgiving reality can be. Only the ravages of time have shown me that, left to myself, I’d be crushed by forces that could care less about me, my wants, my fears, my hopes. To survive without losing my mind I’d need something to lean on and trust in that’s greater than the harshness of the world. I have all that, and so much more, in Jesus, the One in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

If 18 again, I’d be much less judgmental about others than I was the first time. (If 35 again, I’d be less judgmental than the first go-around!) How much better I understand Jesus’ counsel to “judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1, KJV), because I’ve seen just how weak, fallen, and damaged we all are. At 18 I hadn’t had that many experiences in which I would meet someone and think What a jerk, only to learn about their hardships, trials, and toils—hardships, trials, and toils that likely would have made yours truly a bigger “jerk” than I deemed them to be. Believe me, time has a way of softening your underbelly in ways (many ways, in fact) that an 18-year-old couldn’t fathom.

If 18 again I’d have priorities different from those I had the first time. With so few years behind me, how could I have known how unimportant clothing, cars, zits, and popularity really are? There were also things that I had wanted so badly, things that I had thought were so important that my life would be zilch without them—things I can’t even remember now. Thus, how important could they have really been?

Though it’s great to be idealistic and ambitious, were I 18 again I’d relax, knowing that I’m probably not going to set the world on fire—and that’s fine; I don’t have to. You can live a happy, productive life that’s a blessing to family, friends, and strangers, without becoming a Steve Jobs or a Barak Obama.

If I were 18 again I’d inscribe on my brain these words: “What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). At 57 I understand so much better than I could at 18 just how frighteningly temporary the “temporary” really is. That’s why I now long for the eternal in ways that I couldn’t possibly have done then. And finally, if 18 again . . . I’d buy a comb.

Source: Adventist ReviewSpecial GYC Edition 2012
GYUGeneration of Youth for Christ
Author: Clifford Goldstein, editor of the Sabbath School Quarterly since 1999, has had a long and distinguished writing career. He has written 16 books and numerous magazine articles. He has been the editor of Liberty magazine and Shabbat Shalom magazine. Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in Ancient Semitic Languages from John Hopkins University... ► more

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