The beauty of the Ozarks has been spectacular this autumn. Every day as I drove from Springfield to Greenfield I admired the amazing colors of the trees and vowed that I would stop and take some pictures, and every day I passed on by without doing so. Now we have reached that part of autumn when there are just about more leaves on the ground than on the trees. The branches are becoming bare, and I lost the chance to take those pictures I wanted.
Every day brings a new opportunity for something that will bring meaning to our lives or to the lives of others, but we often find ourselves too busy to do what is set before us, too busy to take a moment and make a difference. We put off the important things in lieu of the urgent or insistent things in our lives.
Someone once said, “No one ever on their death bed looks back and says, ‘I wish I would have cleaned the house more (or worked more).’” Looking back we all have had moments when we wished we would have done something, like paying more attention to the kids or to our spouse. Whatever the object of our consideration, the truth is that “hindsight is 20/20,” meaning that looking back we can see our mistakes, missed opportunities, and times when we could have or should have. So how do we deal with the “looking back” syndrome?
First, I believe it is necessary to learn from others’ experience. Some of you who are younger could take a few notes from the play book of those in your life who are older and more experienced. Of course, we are so sure we know everything and that our parents/elders know so little about life, that is, until we get where they are and realize how much they truly did know. Listen to what they have to say. Ask questions. When you are making your priorities, ask them what things they wish they would have done and what they would have changed if they could.
Second, it is necessary to remember that every day is a new day. Now if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you might be struggling with guilt and shame over some past decisions and experiences. You need to know the Apostle Paul’s words: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The mistakes you made in the past are just that—past. Today is a new day and an opportunity to move forward. If you know Christ, you can do that without guilt or shame by simply confessing your faults to God and receiving forgiveness from Him.
Third, take the time to “smell the roses” in your life. Take a few moments to enjoy your children or grandchildren. Visit a special friend or relative you haven’t seen in some time. Spend some time in prayer and Bible reading, renewing your relationship with God. Maybe make a list of all the things you want to do and start checking them off as you accomplish them one by one. What things will make a difference in your life or the lives of those around you?
Finally, in the words of Paul: “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
My prayer for you is that you find joy in the commonplace moments of your life. My prayer is that you will know fulfillment in the simple relationships and reassurance in those relationships because of the time you have invested. And my prayer is that you will have peace of mind as you navigate the choices and hopes of your days.
If you hurry, you might just get to enjoy a few of those autumn trees.