On Friday night we met with another couple, dear friends of ours, to start our small group centered around Mark Batterson’s book, If. We talked about our goals in life, our current spots, and what we see for the future.
How can we shift If Only regrets to What If possibilities?
The idea of shifting regret to possibility is one of changing stories. As a writer, I’ve always seen the catalyst for changing a story as finding a more complete ending. Some writers know the ending before it starts. I’m not one of them.
In my formative years, I read Stephen King’s On Writing where he mentions stories as fossils to be unearthed and his aversion to outlining. I know this spurs hours of conversation between creative types but, I believe, there’s a divine mystery to writing without an ending in mind. You may find yourself in a corner but, at the same time, mysteries and wonders will be revealed that enrich a story far beyond any outline.
The flow of shifting regret to possibility starts when we realize our ending is not complete.
I think of Saul riding his horse down the Damascus road. You think we have violence today? This guy had raided homes, pulled Christians out and stoned them. He was an enforcer, the best of the best, a Roman citizen working for the government doing his job.
He had blood on his hands.
Maybe that day was hot and dry as he rode forward with his companions. Maybe he replayed the latest raid and killing in his mind. Maybe he thought about a cushy government pension and villa somewhere that he would spend his days in after retirement.
The next moment, in a flash of light, his If Only had shifted to What If.
In his transformation days, blinded by the Redeemer he had chased so virulently, his regrets were fuel for his What If’s. He would now walk into cities and tell a new story.
He, the worst of the worst, was saved by grace coming from the greatest sacrifice in history.
When his eyes opened, he was now Paul, and would go on to write more than half of the New Testament. His ending, at the time, was not written. Even in later years, when he understood he would face death at the hands of the same government he had served, he kept writing. He kept pushing for expansion of the church. He kept reaching out, burning away the regrets with new fire and new dreams.
He changed the world.
No matter where you sit tonight as you read this, your story is not over. The end is not complete. Time is not a conviction, it is the conviction to get moving. We must, as Einstein put it:
Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.
Where can you make a difference? Contribute to a story? Add value? I know the arguments, believe me. It is so much easier to curl up with some popcorn and Netflix. Let this year be your year. Let it be OUR year.
Look forward and see your What If as it emerges from the blinding light of contact with your Creator. As your eyes open, you will never be the same.