Once upon a time, I made a list of the biggest wrong decisions I’ve made in my life.
It was long.
It ran from career decisions, to school decisions, to a few billion relationship and friendship decisions, to just random life decisions.
I messed around with it a bit… narrowed it down to some of the more critical ones… labeled them… figured out that I was roughly on plan xyz by now, plans a and b and every other single letter label being long forgotten memories.
I can’t even remember now exactly what my point was in making the list.
It was some time later when I was thinking back with loneliness and regret over a past relationship, and the time gone by. I found myself realizing that had things gone according to the original plans, we’d have been married for so many years already. And wondering of the kids we would have had. And where we would have been by now.
And then it goes, as it often does, into the guilt and what ifs. The realization in hindsight that the major issues came unraveled about a year after the end… and would have been long gone by now had we only made it work a bit longer. If only I had done this. If only I hadn’t done that.
Then I get even harder on myself, and wonder what would have happened by now in the ministry involved. How many more people might have been helped if only I’d made better choices. How many people might be in problems now that might have been helped if things hadn’t fallen apart.
How many people might have been cured of cancer as a result of the brilliant doctor that was never born because we gave up too soon?
The logic in me knows that this isn’t being realistic, it isn’t being fair, it isn’t even being helpful. And yet, the emotional side still mourns over the losses, and wallows in sorrow over things that never could have been predicted from where I stood at the time decisions were made. Beating myself up may not be productive, but at least it feels like appropriate punishment to somehow try to prevent future occurrences.
But it was during one of these times… about the time I was asking forgiveness for the dead orphans who never got a home (of course completely because of my failure on something only very very distantly related), that I got a nudge.
“The orphans never existed” it said.
This was weird. Of course orphans existed. Millions of them exist all over the place. Lots of them die. And of course maybe had I made certain decisions something might have somehow been related to helping a few. And so I tried to argue.
But still was the clear nudge…. they never existed.
This actually took me a bit to really get it.
Embarrassingly long actually. And I’m still not sure how well I can really explain it.
But really… they never exist. They never would have existed.
Neither do the supposed children that would have been born. The people who would be helped. Even the husband that would have been. The jobs that would have been. They only exist in my own imagination.
The entire path and life had I followed that path? None of it would have ever existed in any form.
Part of this is simply because it’s just dreaming. Reality never matches up to plans and hopes.
But I realized… it goes a lot deeper than that.
I have a God that knows all, and I have a loving God.
He knew what choices I would face, and he knew the choices I would make, long before I even had the capacity to know what a choice even was.
When I looked on from the point of decision, I saw two (or more) paths… and sometimes a short ways ahead on each.
I’ve seen the road I took, and all it held, so its tempting to think back and wonder what I missed on the other path.
But the other path wasn’t there. At all. Even the short bit I thought I saw was an illusion.
Why? Because it was already known that I wasn’t going to take that choice, even if it was the better road to take.
Why would there be plans depending on something it was already known I would never do? Why would God have orphans dependent on something that He knew was never going to come through for them? Why would he have the lives of people waiting particularly on a help that he knew would get off track and never make it to them?
I do believe there are certain things in life that are planned out for certain people to accomplish. But I don’t think I’ve been as good at realizing that things that were not to be, would have never been anyway.
It doesn’t make my bad choices any less bad. I wish that I would have taken lots of the other paths…. that those paths would have existed rather than my actual path.
But it helps greatly to realize that this is plan a. Always was, and still is. It’s not the greatest plan, and its far from the easiest plan… but it’s where I am, and where He knew I would be, and its where the future roads will come from.
Why would he have put them on an imaginary road He knew I would never take?
When it leads me through the desert, even if its a surprise and disappointment to me, it was already known and planned into the scheme of things long before I ever got to the turn. The things I’m supposed to do and the things I’m supposed to see and the people I’m supposed to meet and the dreams I’m supposed to fulfill were all planted in their places knowing where I would be.
It’s easy to grieve over the things I imagine were lost on the untaken path… especially when feeling a bit lost on the current path. But I grieve over shadows and mirages, figments of my imagination and guilt.
The reality that does exist, and will exist, is waiting for me to get over it.