Recently a friend of mine was recounting the details of an ancient love affair. The discussion included descriptions of their time together, the acceleration of discontent and an explosive separation. However, the main theme of the discourse seemed to be the lingering question of would she have been happier with HIM? Would she be more fulfilled, would she live in a better house, who would her friends be and what clothes would she be wearing in that alternate universe? In that world undoubtedly everything would be preferable to the selections she actually made. That decor would be perfect, that husband attentive and everything would be brighter, tastier and more organized. Whenever I am bored, lonely or clogged in some tedious task my mind immediately reverts to that familiar song like clicking my iPod to repeat my favorite track…..what if I had chosen a different path?
I am convinced this is a bewitching mind trap – looking back at decisions made in the past and questioning our choices. Twenty five years ago I surrendered to a full blown anxiety attack and began to dismantle all my ordination plans. Approximately a month before becoming a priest I woke up with the absolute certainty that I was about to make a crushing mistake. In that hellish day all my painstaking vocational discernment shattered around me and escape became the most reasonable option I could devise. Like a passenger on a floundering ship forced to choose what should be taken and what left behind, I imagined myself walking away from my future life as a priest and constructing something ultimately preferable. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and talked me off the ledge. What remains from that grim day was a friend who counseled me to stop, breathe and remember what decisions had been made when I was calm and without the stress of an imminent major commitment.
That wise counsel has been a gift I reuse over and over in my life: the belief that rational, prayerful decisions are to be trusted. Considering the specific information we possess, our state of mind and the circumstances surrounding us, we need to have faith we make prudent life choices that reflect who we are meant to be. Who wants to live with regret or worse, waste what little time we have wondering what might have been? Looking back at the scrapbook of our lives can be enjoyable but when it sours into anguish, bitterness and disappointment it’s time to go get a frozen yogurt…..with sprinkles! And while you’re enjoying that treat, stop, take a breath and remember that every decision you have made has brought you to this perfect moment. A moment filled with imperfections, wrong turns, friends, memories, heartache, happenstance, mystery, moonlight, football games, music and love. Summarize all those experiences and choices then go look at yourself in the mirror and see who you really are.But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” ~Luke