Points to Ponder: If I Could Only Go Back

Points to Ponder
If I Could Only Go Back

Well, we had one of those "Firsts" in our experience as parents: the first trip to a hospital emergency room. A fun time at a Pennsylvania amusement park ended with a fall from a sliding board. Our eight-year old, Elizabeth, screamed in pain and fear as she clutched her obviously dislocated left elbow. Seeing your child's arm bent into a painfully contorted position hits you with the immediate realization that this is both bad and beyond your capabilities to remedy. It really strikes a blow to your child's perception of Dad as a super hero who can fix anything.
While we were riding together on the medical cart (sort of a long golf cart with a stretcher and a seat alongside of it), Elizabeth lamented about her decision to play on that slide. "If we could only turn the clock back," and make a different decision; just erase that terrible moment from history and redo it, she cried. I said, "I know . . . As you get older you'll be making that wish a lot more." The park medic looked back at me with a slight grin, acknowledging what we both knew, without saying a word about our own experiences.
Oh, if we could only go back and do it over again. We've seen the TV shows and movies that invent ways for that to be done. The old Star Trek series, and its spin-offs, featured portals and scientific calculations that allowed the characters to go back in history. Almost every time when it was a major part of a particular episode's plot, the stark warning was issued prior to engaging in the journey backward in time, to be careful not to interfere with history. If even the most insignificant of events was altered or hindered from progressing as it had originally happened, the result was the future from which they had come would be altered as well. Playing with the past in some cases worked to write the characters out of the "revised' future which would then unfold. Oops!
There was the 1960's TV series "Time Tunnel" in which characters went on adventures back in history. Then of course there was the popular series of movies, "Back to the Future." There are multiple examples we could list in which the desire to go back and fix the past is the main theme.
Some people would love to go back to their past because they're still living there now. It's not that these folks want to undo the past; it's a preference to undo the present and hang onto the glorious experiences that happened in a context that no longer exists. In one sense I suppose it's nostalgia for a time when a person felt most alive, most useful, most fulfilled, most free of troubles. In another sense, it could be the seemingly unbearable transition from then to now. Significant loved ones, key players in the story of their lives, have passed off the scene along the way. Suddenly the stage on which they lived is empty, the props have been changed, and the unfamiliarity with the newfangled things of now and many strangers, with whom they did not travel life's journey to here, crowd the space. It's lonely when now is so new and so many familiar things that just were there, no longer are.
My daughter experienced the painful passage of time as it absorbs into our history the mistakes we've made. The unbearable consequences of a misjudgment on her part made her long to grab the switch that runs the conveyor belt of time and throw it into reverse. "If only I could just go back." But you can't. "Oh, man!"
All of this was followed by shots for the pain, excruciating poses for x-rays, and a 150- mile midnight drive to another E. R. closer to home. With the arm now in a splint there would be no swimming, bike riding, or climbing. Consequences.
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes speaks to the human tendency to look back: "The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit." Do not say, 'Why were the former days better than these?' For you do not inquire wisely concerning this." (Ecclesiastes 7:8, 10)
It's interesting that the verse in between these addresses a reaction we often have to the events of life.
"Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry. For anger rests in the bosom of fools." (v. 9)
We can seek and receive the forgiveness of God for our misjudgments. We can learn from our mistakes. They can't be undone. But God in His wisdom and love can redeem what we have messed up.
I once advised a couple who had been living out of the will of God that if they repented and did what they knew was right in God's sight, He would help things work out in their lives. Some months later, the husband expressed frustration that things got worse even though they'd done what was needed. I reminded him that you have to give God at least as much time to fix it up as it took you to mess it up.
You might have to think back several years to figure out where that began. But from this point, you can only go forward.


Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com