What If? What Now?

The past is a funny thing. It shapes our lives and never gives us a chance to go back and change anything ~ no matter how badly we may want to. Last night, I found myself asking a dozen “what if” questions, trying to imagine what my life would be like had I reacted differently in a certain circumstance.

The problem with “what if” is that it generally begins with a regret. And before you know it, you’re in over your head regretting things. Thankfully, my “what ifs” ended with “What if it’s better this way?” and “What if this is what God intended all along?” But that isn’t always how the story goes.

“What ifs” have a tendency to leave us in the past and keep us from enjoying the present. “What ifs” have a habit of leading to more “what ifs.” Before you know it, your life is a serious of doubts. But you see, even in the midst of the hardship and struggle, the questions and uncertainty, God is ultimately in control of our lives. Not one decision escapes His notice. Not one choice slips through the cracks. God knows exactly what is coming around the corner, and we can rest secure in the fact that He is making something beautiful from the ashes of our lives.

I’m not saying you won’t have regrets. Unfortunately, we all make choices we’re not very proud of. There will be moments that you stop to wonder, but you can’t let those questions tie you to the past. Instead of “what if,” ask “what now?” Take the lessons you’ve learned and put them into practice. After all, you can’t change the past, but you can change the future.

The Best Year of Your Life

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker the other day. It was one of those conversations that left me thinking, then praying, then writing, and now blogging. He asked me this question: “If you could relive one year of your life – not to change anything, but simply to relive it – what year would it be?” Now, my initial thought was, “What’s the point? I’ve already lived that year once, so why would I want to return to something so familiar? What would be the fun of that?”

What left me pondering this thought long after I had gone home from work was the fact that I didn’t have an answer. Every year of my life has been filled with ups and down, joys and pains. How could I choose one that stood above the rest? The only answer I could offer my coworker was, “Well, I know which year I wouldn’t choose.” But now I’m not so sure. As I laid awake in bed thinking of that year I have long considered to be the worst year of my life, I began to think that maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible to return to it. In fact, if I could go back with renewed vision – if I were able to take with me the perspective I have now – that would probably be the year I would choose.

I learned so much in that year. I learned how to stand in the midst of a storm while the wind and waves pressed against me and the sands shifted beneath my feet. I discovered how to love through the course of that nightmare – unconditionally, that is – because up until that year, no one had presented any conditions that I was required to love around. I learned how to fully trust the God who creates the light at the end of the tunnel, because throughout that year, I knew nothing but darkness. And if I could go back with the perspective I have now, I might be able to see the things that I missed. Perhaps my worst year would become my best year, but I guess we will never know.

The only thing I am left absolutely certain of is this: I don’t want to live my life stuck in the past, savoring the moment. I don’t want to get so caught up in a memory that I miss what is happening here and now. It’s like the old proverb says,

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery; but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.

So here’s my answer to my coworker’s silly question: This year, 2010, is the year I want to relive. And next year it will be 2011. And the year after that, 2012. My lesson learned (and encouragement to you) is this: Don’t walk around yearning to relive the best year of your life, but strive to make every year a year worth reliving.