God sure works in some mysterious ways.
One of the joys of living a long life is that we eventually get to a point where we can look back at our histories with a broader appreciation of what was and what could have been. How many times did younger versions of us whine about the unfairness of it all? How many times did our parents assure us that “someday, you’ll understand.”
Well, that didn’t make living without a bicycle for another year any easier back then. But looking back, I can truly appreciate now how those bicycles probably represented a week’s worth of food or a heating bill. After raising three kids through their own long lists of wants, needs and fads, I can see that my parents were miracle-workers.
Understanding why some things had to be the way they were is fulfilling. But the glory of God’s plan really comes into focus when we learn about the repercussions we escaped.
Some can be petty. Maybe an ex-girlfriend wound up fat, ugly and in jail. Others are a bigger deal; like maybe the town your parents moved you away from was flooded out in a hurricane. I was crushed when a consulting firm didn’t hire me for my dream job. The following year, they were raided by the FBI and almost every single employee went to jail. Knowing the tragedies we didn’t have to deal with because of decisions we (or our parents) made really make me say “Wow!”
There are lots of other things that didn’t happen that I thank God for; things that could have altered my life dramatically. For instance, when we were first married, my ex-wife and I visited Colorado. We were awestruck and seriously considered buying a home in a Denver suburb called Littleton. After thinking about it, we decided to stay close to the grandparents in New Jersey. Sixteen years later, the tragic shooting incident occurred in Columbine High School. Two of my three daughters would have been high school aged and attending Columbine had we purchased the home we were interested in.
Surviving life can be pretty tricky. I have been blessed to walk away unscathed from a couple of car wrecks. I once had someone try to bash my head in with a baseball bat. (I still have no idea how he missed this head!) But one thing that almost killed me actually helped me survive. I’d had some serious asthma incidents growing up. My friends all knew I had bad lungs. It was a face-saving excuse to decline when my peers pressured me to try cigarettes and pot. They’d say, “Oh yeah! You have asthma!” This was pretty important because as it turns out, I have a bit of an addictive personality. We found this out when I was introduced to alcohol.
God walked with me during my binge-drinking days. He must have because there is no way I could have made it home without His help. Eventually, reality struck and I knew I had to stop. So I did. But as the years went along, I started to occasionally nurse a social drink. I was always able to control the urge for a second, third and fourth; until the moment I decided that I didn’t want to control that urge any more.
Lo and behold, just like He gave me asthma to shield me from tobacco and drugs, God changed my body somewhere along the line. To this day, if I try to have a second drink at one setting, my head starts pounding and my stomach burns like I’m drinking acid. I recognize that little malady as the gift from God that it is. It’s probably the only reason I did not return to my binge days.
You would think that these experiences would make me less whiny; but that is not human nature. We tend to complain when we don’t understand what is going on. Over the past months, for example, it has become obvious that God is making me somewhat lactose-intolerant. Now, I’m completely on board and totally thankful that I am not addicted to cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol. But for crying out loud... why can’t I continue my ice cream habit?!?!?
I suppose that someday I may look at the results of a cholesterol test and thank God that I stopped eating so much ice cream. Or maybe someday my cardiologist will tell me, “Geez! One more scoop and you would’ve been done for!” Until then, I reserve my right to whine… even while I praise the Lord for everything he has done to protect me and allow me to enjoy this life.
I highly recommend taking a look back at your life and thinking about things that may have been. It can be a little risky. At least one of you probably has a spurned suitor who became a rich neuro-surgeon. But you can assume he is an abusive, philandering weasel and you would have been miserable. Just remember that everything that happened had a purpose. It’s how you got where you are today.
Praise God for it all.