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.