The Dangerous World of “If Only”

Rita Clucas smI remember the 6th grade like it was yesterday. After all, I walked its halls many years after I left its classrooms. It was the year that changed my life forever—the year that the boys noticed I didn’t look like the other girls who hadn’t developed quite as much over the summer. It was the year that I began to hate the fact that no matter how good my grades were or how soft my heart was, my body had become the focal point and subsequently the catalyst for years of harassment and self-loathing. My young heart questioned why God thought I was so wretched that He didn’t care about my getting groped at in the halls or descended upon in the bathrooms, and later my scarred, angry heart began visiting all the “If Only” scenarios it could conjure.

If only I’d been stronger. If only my body had kept the same pace as my friends’. If only I wasn’t too ashamed to tell. If only I knew how to not wear someone else’s sin as my own. If only…

Maybe you can relate, or maybe your “If Onlys” are:

If only I was prettier…

If only I was thinner…

If only I had finished college…

If only I’d married someone else…

If only I had more money, more confidence, more friends, more __________ (You fill in the blank)…

And those are some of the simpler ones. Maybe yours are more complicated:

If only my parents had wanted me…

If only I hadn’t gotten pregnant…

If only I hadn’t had that abortion…

If only my husband hadn’t cheated…

If only I hadn’t cheated…

If only my kids would listen…

The fact is, “If Only” is a dangerous place to visit too often or too long, whether it’s a past or present circumstance. On the surface, it’s just a temporary diversion from our here-and-now. But on a deeper level, it justifies why our lives are inadequate and keeps us chained to our mistakes or to what “might have been” or “should be” instead of released into “what may yet be”.

So, what do we do when we’re tempted to visit the world of “If Only”?

  • Decide not to camp there. A backward glance is one thing, but a rear-view lens is often blurry. It’s too easy to let our imagination either skew reality or re-create outcomes that would never have been.4664571024_ccff2e5ccc

As Elie Weisel, a survivor of three Nazi concentration camps once said, “Some stories are true that never happened.”

  • Let go of what you didn’t have, embrace what you do have, and dream for what you can have. Your past or present circumstances don’t have to dictate your future. I love how Paul says it in Philippians 3:13, “…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
  • Forgive. God. Others. Yourself. You can.
  • Find a way to be grateful. Being grateful for something is not the same as being grateful despite something. Gratitude doesn’t change your circumstance, but it does change your perspective of it and reaction to it.

So how does this look in real life? Well, back to the 6th grade…I’m by no means grateful for what happened to me, but I am absolutely grateful for what it produced in me. From it, I gained compassion for young, hurting women and even for the young, hurting men who violate them. I developed the instinct to protect my own daughters and the wisdom to instruct my son to honor every daughter. I was propelled down dark roads that eventually led to these invaluable truths:

I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14),

I am dearly loved by my Father in heaven,

I am not responsible for the sins of others but am fully forgiven for my own,

I have the strength to leave my land of “If Only” and stay connected to my reality and be the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend I can be .

Okay Mamas, your turn. What “If Only” are you going to stop visiting? I’d love to hear from you.

(photo credit: #ds198 – Not a Morning Person via photopin (license) )

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