Monday, July 8, 2013

What if's

As a fiction writer, “what if” is one of the most valuable tools in the arsenal of my imagination.  It enables me to look into the future and craft a character, a situation, and the journey to redemption.  “What if” he looked out the window at that very moment?  “What if” she took that job in Wisconsin?  What a different trajectory her life would take.  “What if” looks from the present into the future and guides the story and its characters to a logical conclusion.  In fiction, I am neither constrained by time nor place.

"What if” can produce a bottomless pit of regrets.  Visualize the young girl in the movie True Grit, when she falls into a crevasse filled with poisonous snakes.  It is that kind of bottomless pit. And of course, those deep worries are also spurred on by "what ifs" first cousin, the despicable "if only."  To some degree, we all get hung up on those assaulting emotions. 

Right now in this season of life, I have many friends who are losing sleep over the “what ifs” of their past, lamenting poor decisions regarding their children.  “What if” I had let him take the car that night?  “What if” I didn’t let her take the car that night?  What if’s imagine a different outcome, all hanging like too many wornout coats on the same hanger, threatening to bring us down.  What did I do wrong?  What could I have done better?  And, of course, the inevitable "what was I thinking?!?"

But God…

That is where the story always takes a significant turn.   God sees “what if’s” extending into the future as a new course of action.  The world claims emphatically that you are stuck and can never change. Nothing can be done about it.   But God  Many say that the LORD is a God of second chances.  Indeed, a billion times more than that.  He knew that we would mess up.  That is why He invented forgiveness, because we can’t take it back, we can’t rewind the tape, and we can’t make up for what we have done in the past.  But He can.  That is why Jesus came. 

Forgiveness is the scarlet thread that runs all the way through the Bible.

God says, “Turn, and go another way.”  Get up.  Things can be different.   Use that imagination, not just looking into the future, but today.  Use that powerful imagination for great good, instead of regrets.  Not “what if I had done something different” but “what can I do now?”

…but one thing I do,
forgetting what lies behind
and straining forward
             to  what lies ahead.
I press on
toward the goal for the prize
of the upward call of God
 in Christ Jesus.
              Philippians 3. 13-14

In these lay a multitude of invalids,
blind, lame, paralyzed.
One man was there,
who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him
and knew that he had been
lying there a long time,
He said to him,
      “Do you want to be healed?”
…Jesus said to him,
     take up your pallet
           and walk.”
                              John 5. 3-8

Jesus can change you.
He is not constrained by your past.
            He will redeem it.
Our relationship with Him
is not based on our performance
or derailed by our iniquities,
         but grounded fully on His grace.

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