The Past Helps Us Be More Wise

Last week I ask a question about how are we to know the best use of your time… it looks like this is an issue we all have a bit of confusion about since I didn’t get any helpful hits in comments or emails about how to pull this off well.  This week I want to share a thought experiment in which I have been engaging as a way to explain how I think about the best use of my time.

Lately I have been asking myself, “If I woke up tomorrow and I was back in my twin bed, in Bloomington, in my parents’ house, and I was all of a sudden back in high school (but could remember everything I knew right now) what would I do differently?”  On some days I end up having dreams about ending up in custody for knowing about and trying to stop all kinds of mass killings… those mostly happen after I watch a super hero movie.

But most often I think about all of the missed opportunities I had to love the people who surrounded me through those years.  I was so focused on what I thought was important that I missed out on loving myself by learning everything that was being shared with me by those who were my teachers; I missed out on loving my parents while I was willfully disobeying whatever rule they put in my life to help me; I missed out on loving so many by sharing the good news of God’s love as expressed through the death of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins; and I missed out on loving the God who made me by simply paying attention to the creation that He had put around me for me to get to know Him.

When I think about all that I would do differently it makes me come to God and ask forgiveness for the ways that I sinned against others, against myself, and against Him by my actions or inactions.  And it makes me think about what the best course of action would have been.

But then, I often find myself still doing a bunch of those stupid things today.  I don’t always listen to those who are trying to poor into my life; I don’t always like to follow the rules that are designed to help me; I don’t always love others by sharing the good news with them; and I don’t always pay attention to everything that God is doing for me today.  And so I come to the realization that I not only need to ask forgiveness for the past, but I need to change what I am doing today.

As Jesus started His ministry, the author of the Gospel according Mark records these words.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Mark 1:14-15

Repent and believe.  Turn from your old ways (repent) and have faith that you are forgiven (believe).  And so God and I slowly move our way through the mess that was and is my life, bit by bit trying to become more in line with His Kingdom.

What does this have to do with knowing the best thing to do?  I think the only time that we are going to know that the best thing to do in a situation is going to be afterwards when we know more and have a better chance of understanding a broader scope of what is going on.  But as we look back on ways that we would have changed in the past, we can change what we are doing today.  Sometimes the same principles will apply to new situations.  Sometimes not so much.  But as we learn more and more how we can best love God, love others, and love ourselves, we will grow in wisdom, and know more and more what is the better way to act, and more often find the best way to be!

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