a“If only, …”



The apostle Paul gives us this advice: “No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13 (TLB)



          The story is told of a wealthy Ohio farmer named Taylor who was approached by a young man named Jamie asking for a job.  He hired Jamie and allowed him to sleep in the barn.


          Some years later Jamie came to Taylor and he announced that he and Taylor’s daughter were in love and asked Taylor for his daughter’s hand.  Taylor was incensed and fired him.  Jamie left the farm and Taylor never heard from him again.


          Years later Taylor was doing some repairs to the barn in the area where Jamie used to sleep.  He was startled to find Jamie had carved his full name in the wood:  James A. Garfield.


          Taylor’s farmhand had gone on to become a general and subsequently the President of the United States.  Taylor could have been father-in-law to a President and his daughter would have been the First Lady.  If only…


          Sometimes when I am watching the slow-motion replays of decisive moments in sporting events, I wish life could be like that!   If only we could reverse time and be able to rectify errors we had made, therefore, never having any regrets for past mistakes.  I don’t believe that I am the only one who wishes that time could be reversed as I hear some of my older colleagues lamenting, ‘if onlys’.  Frequently they recollect these lost ‘opportunities’ with regret, resentment and occasionally even anger.  They speculate how their lives would have different if different choices had made.  While it may be helpful to review lost opportunities; it is of little value to become perturbed over them.


 As most of us look back over our lives, we can vividly recall unwise decisions. However, we need to establish a balance between the ‘if onlys’ and ‘ I’m glad I did’, if we are going to be able to keep our lives in perspective. 


          When I find myself caught up in the ‘if onlys’ and wishing that they could be changed, I usually say to myself: “Dummy, all you have is the present!  Don’t waste the ‘now’ lamenting about things you cannot change!  Today is now!  Yesterday is gone and your tomorrow might never come.  So use the time you do have to do those things you knew you should do but never found the time to accomplish.”  Living today with the thought there may not be a tomorrow should add an intensity to our lives and propel us to do those things that add meaning to our lives and to lives of others.  We need to say those words we have been meaning to say and/or to do those intended loving deeds before it too late.  Today is God’s gift given to us to do those things and there may not even be a tomorrow for us to say, ‘if only’!