If Only

By Daniel Schantz

“So Peter went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62, New King James Version).

It’s a crisp December Monday, as you ramp onto the freeway. There is a slight mist on the windshield, but it is nothing to worry about.

You are feeling good. You had biscuits and gravy for breakfast. The radio is playing your favorite oldies. You are driving a brand new car, the one you have been thinking about for five years. It has everything you ever wanted in a car.

As you come around the first bend, the mist on the windshield turns white, and suddenly you are sliding sideways. A shudder of terror comes over you, and carefully you turn the wheel, but now you are in a slalom, and the brakes are worthless. There is a car parked by the side of the road, someone using his cell phone, and you are headed right for him.

“Oh, dear God, help me!” you pray, right before the front of your new car crumples like a cardboard box and the airbag slams into your face.

The rest is a blur, but now it’s midnight and you are safe in bed, happy to be alive, with no injuries. The accident replays itself over and over in your mind, each time turning out the same. One phrase runs through your mind like an echo. “If only . . . if only . . . if only . . . if only.”

1communion4_JN“If only I had taken the old car, the junker.”

“If only I had been going just a bit slower.”

If only. The trouble with “if only,” is that it focuses on the past, and the past cannot be changed.

We say it all the time, and it’s a waste of breath.

“If only I had not sent that e-mail.”

“If only I had been a better wife.”

Truth is, we don’t know how things would have turned out, even if we had done them differently. If you had taken the old junker to work, you might be dead right now, since it doesn’t have airbags. You could have been the perfect wife and your marriage might still have ended.

Simon Peter wept after he had denied his Master. He probably said to himself, “If only I didn’t have such a big mouth. If only I were stronger. If only I had just gone home.” But after a time of weeping, he got up and faced the only thing that can be changed—the future. And what a future it was, as he delivered the keynote address on the Day of Pentecost and opened the gates of the kingdom to the Gentile world.

Here at this table, turn your regrets over to God. Cry about what might have been, if you must, but then go on with the future, knowing that you are forgiven.

Daniel Schantz is a professor emeritus of Central Christian College of the Bible, Moberly, Missouri.

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