I am 42 years old. This week, my wife and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. We have 4 wonderful children; half of which are now out of High School. We have decent jobs and attend a local church where we have been serving the past eight years.
As I look back on my life, I have wondered about the choices made. Most of my life decisions I have made myself, but some of them have been made for me. When I consider these things, I am tempted to think about opportunities I may have been passed up, asking myself where I would be if I had chosen left instead of right?
Even though I contemplate, I know, right now, I am precisely where I am supposed to be. All the choices I have made have led me to this point in time for a time such as this. All the paths I have traveled, and the pitfalls I have dove headfirst into, all have made me into the man I am today. And that person is the person God is continuing to mold me into.
This not only works for me. It also means that everything you have experienced in your life has led you to today and the person you have become; the person God is making you into.
Choices We Make
This all begins with choices. We make choices every day, whether we realize it or not. We choose what time to get out of bed in the morning, what brand of coffee to drink, and what we are going to wear to work. Leaving the house, we chose which route we are going to take to our job, how fast we are going to drive to get there, and how close we are going to park to the entrance.
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At work, we chose what projects we are going to prioritize, how much effort we are going to put into that assignment, and then what are we going to eat for lunch. Once we complete our inbox, we chose how to get home, what to eat for dinner, and then what time we are going to hit the hay.
These decisions come to us day in and day out. Once we develop a pattern, we can go through life, sometimes on autopilot, not realizing the ramifications of our choices. Yes, the pattern I have laid out is normal life. You may think that what you have for lunch or what project you start off with matters little in the grand scheme of things, but it can.
What we eat can affect our health. The assignment we work on may not be what our bosses want us to prioritize. How we drive to and from work can matter because that 5MPH over the speed limit can put you somewhere where you wouldn’t have been if you had gone the speed limit. Our choices have consequences. Even the small ones.
So, we live with the consequences of life, and we deal with them as they come. Our choices can lead us to feeling stuck; in a rut. This can evolve into doubt and eventually regret, especially with the larger decisions we must make throughout our lives. The decisions we once had control over, and now look back on with questions.
Choices Made for Us
While we can choose Columbian or Guatemalan coffee for breakfast, there are some decisions that are beyond our control. Yeah, we may feel we have control over all areas of our life, but when it comes down to it, we are stuck with some things and have to make due. We are to take what we are given and use in the best manner that suits the situation, and our abilities.
For instance, I have chosen to drive a truck for a living. When I get to the terminal in the morning, I have to pre-trip the truck I am driving. These are federal laws that help protect me, the people on the highway, and the company I work for. I have no choice but to obey those laws. Otherwise, I lose my job. Yes, I can choose not to follow that checklist, but what if there was a brake line leak? I would get down the highway, and when I tried to stop, I wouldn’t be able to. Then I would cause an accident, perhaps injure someone (or worse.) I would lose my job, my license, and most likely have a lawsuit to deal with. All because I went against a choice that was made for me.
Other decisions made for us can be less dramatic. It does, however, begin with a choice we make, but what happens from there is often in someone else’s hands. We can pick a car to drive, but we may be limited to a certain type of fuel or parts to maintain the vehicle. We can choose to go to school for a degree, but the courses we must take to achieve that degree are spelled out in an outline. Or we can choose a path in life and walk that road boldly, only to find it more difficult than we thought.
When the momentum of the choices we have made begin to take on a life of themselves, we feel the loss of control. Then we make attempts to slow life down only to be overcome by the inertia of the very thing we began rolling in the first place.
Opportunities Left Behind
With the complexity of life, we get so lost in going through the motions we forget to live. Then we wake up one day and look back and wonder if we have made the right choices, or worse, we regret the choices we have already made. Regret can cause drastic actions. This can lead to the so-called mid-life crisis; the realizing that there is less life in front of you than there is behind. You carry the weight of thinking you could somehow be more than what you currently are. Don’t be mistaken; this happens to both men as well as women. Both trying to look, act, and live younger. It always leads to dangerous ground.
Regrets of past opportunities we let pass can keep us from accomplishing what we currently have set out to do. Life cannot be lived in the rearview mirror. Looking back takes our eyes off the here and now. If we focus on what has been, we lose sight of what will be. By the time we realize it, new opportunities will have passed us by, causing further regret; it’s an endless cycle.
You may hate your job and don’t see any way out. After all, it’s what you have been doing for ten years.
You may be rethinking your career path, but you have put so much money and energy into this course that you feel there is no turning back.
You may feel your life is stalled with no future ahead. You are sure that you have accomplished all you are going to.
Regret and self-doubt get you nowhere. They only destroy who you are now. However, there is a silver lining to it all. There is some good news.
Regrets are not Failures
There is one important thing to know when you are faced with feeling regret as you survey your past; you have not failed. The truth of the matter is you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Your job, your relationships, and your life are all part of a divine plan. Your responsibility is to find the joy in what has been given to you and to live that life to the fullest. No regrets, even when you are convinced that you messed up.
God has laid out a path for you. He has a plan for each of us, win, lose, or draw. We can take what we are given and utterly screw it up, but still be completely in His will. You see, God is not surprised by anything. He knows our choices before we even make them. Our mistakes are His greatest triumphs because when we fall short, we learn. (Some of us have learned a lot.)
There are two things we can do when we face failure. We can give up, throw in the towel, and sit in misery. Or we can learn from it and move on, stronger than before. Giving up should never be an option. It is an immature way to handle the situation. When we accept that life is going to have bumps, it will become easier. The more we live, the more we learn to anticipate and prepare for the strikeouts of life.
Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” God gives us the courage to move on. Right from where we are at. When we learn to be content with where we currently are, then the clarity of our call will be realized. When we learn what the call on our life is, it will become our heart’s desire. When we learn to depend on his guidance toward our calling, there is nothing we cannot achieve.
There is no need for regret. You may not feel accomplished in your life, but that is a matter of perspective. There will always be someone behind you that sees you more successful than they are. The only one who can give you the proper perspective is God. Once you can see yourself through His eyes and come to an understanding that God don’t make junk, then you can begin to see the events of your life in a different light.