Sometimes I play the what if game. What if I would have done this? What if I would have done that? If I coulda, woulda, shoulda as the phrase goes. Some say this is a dangerous game to play. Those in this camp say what difference does it make; you can’t change what you didn’t do. And perhaps they are right.
Some say everything is God’s will, especially when things turn out good for them. I certainly believe in God and his will. God can do anything he wants. But didn’t he give us free will to decide whether we should turn right or left? And sometimes, don’t we turn left when we should have turned right? See the Garden of Eden as a reference; God’s will? I don’t think so. Definitely mans will. And a poor choice that we are all paying the price for today.
Lately I have been dabbling in genealogy. I discovered my folks came across the big pond from Ireland. They landed in South Carolina. From there, they crossed Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and eventually landed in southeast Arkansas, in a wonderful community called Promise Land. It is a few miles outside the terrific town of Hamburg. I’m proud to call this home. I have made some friendships that have lasted a lifetime. As a youth growing up in the land of tall pines, whitetail deer, soybean and rice fields, my experiences were fantastic! I cannot imagine being raised anywhere else.
As I did this research, questions kept popping up in my mind. Was a higher power guiding my descendants to follow the path they traveled which led them to where I was raised? Did somebody give them guidance and direction. Did that person make a difference in their life? What if one, just one of my ancestors made a mistake and turned right instead of left at that proverbial fork in the road? My life would be completely different today. I would have met a completely separate set of friends. I would have never met my wife. I may have been, gulp, a Georgia Bulldog fan. I can’t imagine pulling for those stinking Bulldogs over my beloved Razorbacks!
Now my mind really started wandering. What if one of my ancestors, just one, made a different, not necessarily an incorrect decision and attended a different church. I could have been raised, double gulp, a Methodist!
And what if World War II never occurred? Would my parents have met? There would be no such thing as a baby boom. As a late entry into the baby boom era, I may have never made the cut.
I have just given three examples of what if decisions made that affected my life in a major way. Two decisions made by my descendants and one made by a very evil person named Hitler.
We could say the same thing about you. Left instead of right and you are a Tennessee Volunteer fan. One descendant tries something different and gulp, you are attending a Baptist church with me. Imagine that!
I think of some of the decisions I made in my life. Some decisions were good ones; some, not so much. Some were influenced by wonderful people who took the time to make a difference in my life.
I thank God for those people who chose to make that difference.
For example, when I went to college, it embarrasses me to say this, but I had to take remedial English. I was SO humiliated. Walking into a class full of embarrassed students just like me, was not a confidence builder. I had to take an entire semester of a class that would not count toward my grade just to be eligible to enroll in regular English. I was so embarrassed! Homesick and just looking for a reason to quit college and move back home, this class was close to putting me over the edge.
Thank goodness for a teacher who was determined to make a difference in my life.
My teacher quickly came to my rescue. Sensing my dauber was down, as my late mom so eloquently stated it, my teacher slowly and methodically made me feel like a million dollars. She constantly complemented and encouraged me to do my best in each class session.
The athletic department provided tutors for anyone who requested help. I asked for an English tutor. Guess who it was? That’s right. My English teacher. I spent hours and hours with her writing (and rewriting) papers. We became great friends. With her encouragement, I aced the class and went on to ace both English one and two.
That wonderful teacher made a difference in my life. Her positive influence kept me from making a terrible decision.
Another time, during my senior year in college, again with dauber down, I decided it was time for me to hang up my cleats and be a regular student. When I talked to my coach, I fully expected him to show me the door and tell me to have a great life. But he didn’t. The guy whom I thought would not give two cents for me floored me with his response!
“Please don’t quit. You will regret it the rest of your life. Besides, you don’t know this, but you inspire me every day. What you lack in skill, you make up in hustle and attitude. You make it fun. Just tough it out, if not for yourself, then for me! You’ve made it this far. Why not finish what you started? What do you say?”
I walked out of his office ready to leap tall buildings and run through walls!
I never knew he felt that way! He and I have been friends ever since that day. And boy was he right. I’m so glad I did not make that unwise decision.
That coach made a difference in my life. His words of encouragement kept me from making another terrible mistake, at that fork in the road.
I think of the gazillion decisions I’ve made in my lifetime. I made those decisions on my own free will. Some decisions turned out great. Some decisions were just terrible ones and I’ve had to live with those. But still, they were made of my own free will and while God has always been with me, God did not make those decisions for me. The consequences of my decisions, both positive and negative, affected not only my life, but the lives of my kids, their kids and their kids, kids.
I don’t know the answer to my what if questions. I know some wise people were around me when I made those decisions. I believe God put them there to give me wise counsel on making them. After that, it was up to me to decide. I’m sure glad those people were there to help me!
Those people made a difference in my life and the lives of my family.
As I have moved into the fourth quarter of my life, I have experienced a renewed interest in making a difference in the lives of others. Perhaps it is the spirit of descendant’s past, who guided my ancestors through uncharted paths, gently moving them left when they wanted to turn right. Perhaps it’s the impact of the many people who kept me on the straight path when I wanted to veer left or right, consequentially keeping me from walking over a cliff.
Thank God for difference makers.
Will you join me in seeking opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others?