“Remember you not the former things, neither consider the things of old.” – Isaiah 43:18 AKJV
I believe Isaiah had a point when speaking about our mindset. We cannot change the past, so dwelling on our mistakes or failures can only lead to heartache and needless suffering. However, this poses an interesting philosophical question. What if you could return to a moment in your life or a moment in the course of human events and change one thing? What would it be? The people who answer “nothing” would be the most content and have the most inner-peace.
To answer this question for yourself, you first have to understand what “life” is. Life is a series of ups and downs; lows and highs; pitfalls and promise. Life is more than our fleeting existence in this world. Our experiences and our choices are interwoven into a universal tapestry containing threads of every else’s lives. Our actions and our words have a profound impact upon the lives of those around us and, by extension, the lives of everyone around them. Life is like a pebble tossed into a lake; the ripple effect can only extend outward, but let us concentrate on the analogy of the tapestry.
Every tapestry is unique because tapestries are made out of individual threads. Each person’s life makes up a tapestry containing the threads of their life. These threads are the actions and consequences that occur from the most mundane to the most profound. For instance, you could choose to wake up at 6:30 in the morning and die in an automobile accident, but by waking up at 6:31, you would avoid the collision altogether. There is a saying that “no man is an island” and with that thought in mind, no tapestry is a universe unto itself. When we interact with others, threads from our own tapestry interweave with threads from another person’s tapestry, connecting our lives.
Going back to the question, then, if you could return to the point of time in either your life or the life of someone else, would you make any changes or would you allow events to unfold as before. Once, I would have answered this question with a resounding “YES.” There are many things I would have once changed, if given the chance; automobile accidents, personal violence and untimely bereavement, which has directly affected myself and my family, would make the top of the list, however, that would not be in the best interest of anyone because those events were pivotal to other events, which occurred afterward.
Changing an event in the past is akin to pulling a loose thread from a tapestry. When you see a tapestry, sometimes a thread has broken and is sticking out. It looks terrible and makes you want to pull that thread out, but if you do, you cause a chain reaction, which can destabilize the integrity of the tapestry and cause it to unravel. Without the loss of my first son, would we have chosen to have another child? Everything my second son has done and every life he has touched would be changed. I cannot bear the thought that he might never have lived.
One telling example, though, is the most influential event in the life of my family. In 1987, my mother, and sister were involved in a head-on collision with a man who was traveling on the wrong side of the road. Doctors believe this wreck acted as a catalyst for my mother’s Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Lupus. You can imagine the far-reaching effects of such a catastrophic accident, stretching forward over the course of a decade and beyond. One result was that I no longer had money to attend college. I dropped out after two years and found a job with a local company. Three years later, I married my wife, and we had a little boy. I received a job transfer to North Carolina a few years later and, after a series of other events, now work in a stable career field.
If I had a chance to stop my mother’s car accident, these events would not have happened. I might have stayed in college, perhaps never met my wife, and may be working as a journalist instead of a computer technician. Who knows what I would be doing now, with the economic turmoil that has occurred in the two decades. Everything in my life has happened because of a chain reaction caused by another event in my mother’s past.
If we could go back and change things, would we have the right to do so? I live by the mantra that I will never ask anyone to do something that I am unwilling to do myself, so I am willing to expose my life, thoughts, pains, fears, and struggles if it helps even a single person reconcile some of their own questions or struggles. One of the most significant changes I made in my life was learning to “Let go and Let God.” I let go of anger, pain, regret, resentment, malice, hatred, and most importantly, that annoying question of “what if.”
I could finally speak openly about my traumas at work, and the pain, anger, resentment, hostility, and want for revenge that I felt, but never followed through on. Through this process, I let it all go; everything. Once that was gone, once I was clean again, I felt vulnerable and exposed, but I could now look in the mirror and honestly see myself. I could finally love myself, regardless of my past mistakes and hurts because I had forgiven myself and those who caused me pain. It felt as if a lead weight lifted from my shoulders. I want to share this experience with others, but I do not want to force someone to that point until they are ready. God calls each of us to him in different ways. Those who are called are keepers of hidden knowledge and mysteries, and we must share our revelations with others, as we feel it is appropriate.
Our life experiences make us who we are. Once a person understands this critical point, they can move on to the next step of healing by forgiving themselves and others, whether they deserve it or not. I believe the happiest person in the world will be content with who they are. If a person is not satisfied with the person they have become, there is always time to change. Unfortunately, that answer does not lie in the past; it lies at the heart of what we choose to do with our future. Those who look to the future can have joy in the fact that each day is a new day to make their lives and the lives of those around them a better place.