Monday, May 28, 2012

What If?

It seems like the longer I live, the more chances I get to ask myself "What if?"

What if June 1, 2006 had gone differently?  What if that ultrasound had shown a healthy, living fourteen week baby?  What if my deep-rooted fear and sinking feeling had been unfounded?

I'd have a child now; she'd be about five and a half.  I'd be thanking God for the time with her and mourning how quickly it had passed.  And she'd have had five and a half years of experiences to shape her into who she is. 

Instead, my baby went to heaven before I got to meet her.  Instead, my husband and I saw that still, silent ultrasound and spent the next day begging and praying and trying to hope that things weren't as they seemed.  Instead, we chose her name with tears and longing.  Instead, we watched her due date come and go and our arms stayed achingly empty.

What if on January 31, 2007 I had let my Gramma stay at my house to take care of me after my knee surgery?  What if she had not been in the van during that crash?  What if the van hadn't been there?  What if the driver of that milk truck hadn't chosen to use his cell phone?  What if the road crews had done a better job of spreading salt on that particular stretch?

Would that mean that today, I'd be able to ask my Gramma how to love my dying friend?  Would it mean that I'd have someone to give me the push I need to love without reservation?  Would it mean I'd have fewer nights filled with empty, silent tears?  Would my heart hurt a little less?

What if I had chosen to ignore the growing attachment and attraction I felt toward Derek nine years ago?

I'd have loved and perhaps married someone else.  And I'd have missed out on so much.  I'd have missed the laughter and the joy and the tender moments.  I'd have missed the frustration and fear and uncertainty.  I'd never have stood in disbelief as I watched my new relatives dance in a circle to weird Greek music.  I wouldn't have found myself having to choose between what I wanted and what was right as I responded to certain situations.  I wouldn't be laying on the couch with my leg in the air, knowing that tonight my husband will come home and I will be proud of how well he did today as he works a job that he is not "naturally gifted" to do.

What if in September of 1999, the person visiting me in the hospital had simply said "That is sad and I am sorry" when I told him I had to find a new home?  What if his wife had said she didn't want to start again with yet another teenager?  What if my dad hadn't been agreeable?  What if the doctors had said no?

I wouldn't have learned to love.  I wouldn't have learned to laugh, or to trust, or to be honest.  I wouldn't have experienced unconditional acceptance into a family that loved me just because they wanted to.  I wouldn't have had the foundation I needed to go out into the world and build a life.  And truthfully, I probably wouldn't have survived.

What if my childhood had been easier?  What if I'd never been betrayed, abandoned, or abused?  What if I hadn't survived things that are almost unspeakable?

I would have been closer to "normal."  I wouldn't have been living with PTSD for as long as I can remember.  I would have had less fear, less anger, less pain.  I wouldn't have had to be as strong or as brave.  I wouldn't have learned to lie about everything.  I could have "just been me."  But I wouldn't have had a reason to develop the compassion I have today.  I wouldn't have such a personal motivation to drive so much of what I do.  I wouldn't know how profoundly forgiveness changes a person.  I would never have seen the amazing transformation that happens when someone literally turns from evil and surrenders to Christ.  I probably wouldn't be as accepting of others and I am certain that I'd have less wisdom, less strength, and less hope. 

I could go on, and on, and on.  Because there are hundreds, no, thousands, of "what ifs" in my life.  In every life.  There are so many things that change the course of our lives from that moment on.  Sometimes, we get the better option.  Sometimes, we don't.  Always, we can choose to look back and ask "What if?"  Sometimes, doing so can help us.  It can give us insight, it can give us wisdom, help us make better choices in the future.  It can give us a chance to be grateful and an opportunity to embrace peace and acceptance.  But it can also hurt us.  It can make us regret things we cannot change.  It can make us grieve, it can make us angry and uncertain and afraid.  We can look back and feel slighted and compel us to make decisions that are hurtful to us now.

I have one final "what if" that I would like to ask.  One question that I think we all need to answer for ourselves, in our own hearts and minds.  One thing that needs to be settled permanently within each of us.

What if I choose to look back at my life from time to time, and ask myself how things could have been different, and then I take that perspective and use it to answer the 'what ifs' that face me every day, so that I can face tomorrow without regret?

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