Saturday, September 15, 2007

What if and If Only

Words are hard today. I feel like I am trying to squeeze them out of an almost dry kitchen towel. The towel is twisted and wrenched tightly. And the little water that comes from my efforts is just a sheen of moisture on my hands.

The words are there. Maybe they are not. Maybe I just want them to be.

I do know that four words have been haunting me.

What if and if only.

Past tense. Two, two word sentences, yet they have caused my soul to feel like my towel.

These sentences are filled with angst, regret, longing, torment, and pain.

What if and if only makes us revisit places we do not want to go. They cause us to examine old wounds and scars. They cause us to attempt to return to a place that for us does not exist anymore. A place where events and circumstances cannot be changed or altered.

Someone quite wisely told me that if you ask these questions you will be asking them forever. They become an endless litany of possibilities with no means to carry them through. They offer no hope.

If only...I had made a different choice earlier...or later.
If only...I had not said those words.
If only...I had been more attentive.

What if...I had chosen something different.
What if...I had waited.
What if...I had been honest.

What if and if only have no answers. They have thousands. And we could play each answer out, but we still would not know if that particular scenario was right. Any answer we might find will have the same question mark at the end.

Instead we should live with what is and now.

I can no longer ask the question what if. I must put my hand to the plow and not look back. What if will not help me to move forward; it will not help me press on. No, it causes me to stumble. To falter. I cannot change the what if.

I can look at the what is and the now and live. Not just exist. Not just survive.

In the midst of a crisis or devastating situation well-intentioned friends and acquaintances will offer Romans 8:28 as a catch-all safety net. When used in this way the verse seems trite and cliché.

But when we do look at what is and accept it, when we say okay, this is how it is--then God can and will take “all things and work them together”. But these if questions must be handed to him. They must be laid in his lap. Given to him as an offering. And he will accept them. He does not want us to live in the what if and if only. He does not abide there. He is the great I Am. The Now. The ever Present.

Remember: He was, He is, and He will be. All at the same time. In the same instant. And because this is who he is, because this is where HE abides he can work all things to the good of those who love him.

He will work our dead, burdensome what ifs and if onlys to our benefit. His forgiveness and grace allows us to leave these questions unanswered. My dear friend says that His mercy is wide. And wide covers a great deal of ifs.

I believe God's mercy is elastic.


God's mercy is expansive, and no matter how far we stretch it, it will return to its original form.

Yes, I do believe this. We do not have the ability to change the radical mercy of God. Nothing we do or don't do can alter what and who he is.

And because this is true, I have hope. Hope that the mistakes (sins) and missteps (iniquities) of my what ifs and if onlys are belted and covered by his mercy.


Kat said...

My dead heart now is beating,
My deepest stains now clean.
Your breath fills up my lungs.
Now I'm free. now I'm free!

Lift my hands and spin around,
See the light that I have found.
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

Lift my hands and spin
See the light within

lift your hands and spin around, rejoice in the fact that you are not longer in bondage by those 4 little words. i love you. you are a strong brave woman, now dance!

Mac Goddard said...

And you are right on! Life is before you--abundant life, so live it to the fullest!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am reminding myself that I can only respond or react the way I did because I was where I was and so nothing really could have been different...We are where we are emotionally, spiritually, etc...and the best way to "get on" with life is to accept ourselves with where we are, be honest, aceept it and go from there, learning from the past and knowing that indeed God is with us...and that is what matters...

elmogus said...

Perhaps the more important part of the "What if and If only" issue is the word that comes next:

What if *I*
If only *I*

I too, have been where you are, fighting to get from the "what if" and "if only" whirlpools. I was told by a very wise woman, in the kindest possible way, that this was selfish, self-involved thinking. This thinking implies that I have control of another person's actions, of a set of circumstances, and I do not.

The person on the pedestal, whether they know they are there or not, is responsible for their own actions. (Jesus *chose* to be on the cross.) Things happen in this universe that have absolutely nothing to do with me. I'm just around to see it, possibly be affected by it in a very small way, given the grand scheme of things. (Or a huge way in that I *choose* to accept Christ as my Lord and Saviour)

My hefting of an individual, a thing, an issue, whatever to a pedestal has *nothing* to do with the person or thing's actions *because I put them there*. In other words, it's not my fault they liked being there and encouraged me to put them there. (Just as I had nothing to do with the fact that Christ *deserves* to be raised to the pedestal/throne, except that he chose to give his life, a gift, so that I might live again.)

This same wise woman told me, when I said that I always felt uncomfortable when people offered to do things for me, to help me, that I also was being selfish. Not allowing someone to give is not right. Allowing someone to do for you is a gift you give to them. I did not realize the truth of this until I gave it some thought.

Now I try to be more gracious. And to beat myself up less when the "what ifs" and the "if onlies" rear their ugly heads.

Love you.

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