If “I love you” are the three most powerful words in the English language, a strong candidate for the two most dynamic would be “what if.”
Most of man’s progress over the centuries has come from the launch pad of “what ifs,” i.e., what if the world isn’t flat, what if the atom can be split, what if we could fly, etc. You get the picture.
On the flip side, “what if” can reveal “the dark side,” whether it’s real or (more often than not) imagined. What if I would have done this, or what if I hadn’t done that?
“What if Dad and Mom hadn’t gotten divorced?” doesn’t matter, and spending time thinking about it is an exercise in futility. They did and that’s that. Period.
On the other hand, “What if I were to compile the columns I wrote over all the years at the newspaper” set the wheels in motion for my first published book.
While we don’t intend on doing so, we make life more complicated when we look back and start “what if-fing.” I catch myself doing that more as I get older. I need to nip it in the bud before it takes root, and so do you if you’re falling into that trap.
In my case, there’s quite a menu of “stuff” not to like in the first 30 years of my life. Some of it was self-inflicted. Some of it inflicted by others. It’s easy to wish the tears and the pain fell somewhere else, but they didn’t.
“The Tracks of My Tears,” an oldie-but-goodie by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, is on one of my “greatest hits of the ‘70s” CDs. The words of the chorus paint the picture: “Take a good look at my face. You’ll see my smile looks out of place. If you look closer it’s easy to trace the tracks of my tears.”
Many Christians including myself believe God can make the best of the worst and use it for His purpose through our lives. “Behold, I make all things new” is a powerful declaration. But He can and does and will. I’m living proof.
No matter what today or tomorrow has in store, nothing can change the past. History is what history was, no matter how we try to sanitize it or whitewash it, rewrite it or pretend it didn’t happen.
Imagine taking a jigsaw puzzle, making up a few identically sized pieces and substituting them for their counterparts. The result would be a completed puzzle, but it would not be the correct solution. In the same way, our lives reflect the sum total of our experiences – good, bad and ugly. We can’t change the pieces.
Two thoughts help me maintain perspective:
- Paying more attention to being “content” instead of “satisfied,” and
- Accepting that even if I don’t know or understand the reason something happens, I can rest assured that there is a purpose.
The foundation of those premises lies in turning our lives over to the will of God. Easier said than done but othersise we’re just bobbing up and down in the sea of life, splashing futilely and trying to avoid going down for the last time.
I’m not satisfied with everything that’s happened in my life. I never will be. You may not be either. Some of those “things” will always trigger anguish and anger if we dwell on them, the operative word being “if.”
I’ve discovered that when I exchange “contentment” for “satisfaction”, things change. Where I am now and where I’m going matter more than where I’ve been. I can deal with today and tomorrow. I can’t do a blessed thing about yesterday.
Even without complete understanding, once I accept that where I am today is in part because of where my yesterdays were spent, contentment is within my grasp. Life is a cumulative, evolutionary process. We grow, we learn and if we’re patient, we begin to understand.
Content? You bet.
And I can live with that.
P.S. If it’s been a while since you listened to “Tracks of My Tears,” be my guest: