When I was about five years old and I'd go to the county fair with my family, I'd look with amazement at the big, scary midway rides the older kids went on and think "some day I'll be big enough to go on those rides too". When I was about 15 my best friend and I beat our personal best for how many times we could spin our Zipper car around. Twenty-nine spins around, before we got tired and lost our momentum.
By the time I was 25, I'd been to Disneyland several times and had went on all the best rollercoaster type rides, and loved every minute of it. At 35 I recalled going on the biggest rollercoaster at Magic Mountain a few years prior to that, and how I had so looked forward to it, but then half-way up the tracks I was dreading my decision. Looking back, I truly hated every minute of it.
At 45, I have absolutely no interest in going on scary midway type rides, whatsoever. The very thought of it inspires further thoughts about danger, responsibility, carelessness, etc.
What made me think of this sort of evolution in thinking and attitudes, was a quote I read the other day about a pop star who expressed frustration with her father. The article said at 17 years old she moved out of her parents house and dove headfirst into the drug/sex/rock & roll club scene, and she was frustrated because her father "didn't understand" her. When you're young, you think one way. When you get older and as you go through life's experiences, you think a completely different way. It's just the way it is.
Well, I'm not her father and I can't speak for him, but I am someone her father's age. I would suggest that it isn't so much him not understanding her but instead that he has the life experience to know full well what a horrifically stupid choice it is, to get yourself involved in that kind of lifestyle.
When we are young and carefree, we often make really bad choices. If all our friends are doing it, if no one we associate with thinks there is anything "wrong" with it, it's quite likely going to be something we do, whatever IT happens to be. We tend to shrug off the insight of the older generation or write them off as someone who "doesn't understand" just like this pop star did with her father, or we slap a label on them that says "out of touch with our generation". We think we're very clever, and we make our own choices, thank you very much! I can speak from years of experience on this one, since I slapped many labels on many people in my younger days.
Then ten, twenty or thirty years later we look back and think "how stupid was I, and how did I make it through such a ridiculously reckless youth, alive!?" Well, for those of us who know full well that God is sovereign over all things, including the very heart beating in our chest and the breath of life in our lungs, we already know how it is we made it through reckless youth. It also makes us so much more thankful for the mercy of God that spared us some of the nightmarish statistics that maybe some of our closest friends were not so fortunate to have avoided. Like some of you reading right now I'm sure, I can think of several things, and several situations I once did or was in, that were it not entirely for the grace of God, it would have been my mom getting the visit from the local police, or my name in the heartbreaking article in the local paper, instead of someone else's name.
There are certainly things we don't "understand" as the older generation (things such as trends, fashion, slang-lingo) because they just don't appeal to us. We've already been there/done that and much of the new stuff is often just silly to us. This may help explain why Pants on the Ground caught on like wildfire with "older people". These kinds of things are just a passing fancy though, and not really worth getting worked up over, usually.
However, when it comes to life changing, potentially dangerous, deadly or destructive lifestyles, we completely understand that. We've lived it AND we've lost friends who tried to live it and didn't make it. We've seen the short term and long term consequences of playing games with our lives (spiritual, emotional, physical), and some of us didn't make it out entirely healthy. We've attended the funerals, held the hands, seen the pain in the eyes of friends, listened while tales of shattered lives were explained, prayed with and prayed for countless friends who needed it, shared tears with others, made the phone calls... and so much more. Oh yes, we understand better than we ever wanted to. Many of us I'm sure, secretly wish we could say that we didn't understand it, because that would mean we would have never experienced the pain that foolish choices later bring. Many of us have graduated with dishonors, from the School of Hard Knocks. Many of us have the scars to prove it, even if they're on the inside and you can't see them.
Its not that we (us older folks) are trying to kill anyone's fun, boss anyone around or throw our "experience" in anyone's face. It's a simple matter of reality, and wisdom speaking. Someone who has lived twice as long as me WILL know more than I do. They will have experienced more than I have. They will have seen more than I have seen. They will have wisdom to share with me, and the real question is, will I be so full of my own pride and arrogance to disregard what they have to say - or - will I realize that I'm not nearly as smart as I think I am, and pay special attention and learn how to identify wisdom when I'm hearing it?
Some will say that you cannot learn from other's mistakes. While I'm not entirely convinced that is true, I do believe young people would be so much further ahead if they would learn how to truly hear wisdom speaking, and heed the warnings wisdom brings.