Shoulda, Coulda… Woulda.

What’s the moment you run back to in your mind? We’ve all got one. Maybe you run back because you think you could have changed something? Maybe if you said something different or made a different decision, would life be any different?

I have a couple of these moments. And I’m learning how to let go of the illusion that things could have been any different.

One of these moments was right before my husband coded and died very unexpectedly. The doctors brought me in before moving him to the ICU to see if my voice would calm him down. He wouldn’t let them place the NG tube.

I sat down on the edge of the bed and I started to talk to him. He opened his eyes and I tried to explain what was taking place. I told him he was going to the ICU and then soon, into surgery. He was groggy from medication. I think he was finally getting some relief from the pain.

I remember that when he opened those blue eyes I said, “I love you.” And he said “I love you, too.” And I said “Let them do what they need to do, okay?” He nodded.

I stepped back and they finished doing what they needed to do. They wheeled his bed out to go and I remember him saying he couldn’t breathe. The nurse told him he had oxygen and to take some deep breaths.
I remember he said it again and then he gasped.

I remember machines beeping. I remember people scrambling. I remember hearing them yell to call code. I remember it like it lasted forever but it was only seconds. It’s one of those slow motion replays. I remember something told me to get out of their way. I ran out into the hall.

I run back to that moment on occasion. I remember when I used to live that moment over and over. I don’t do that anymore. It never changes. It’s still heartwrenching and he still dies. I still have to plan his funeral. I still have to live without him.

I love you is one of the last things I said to him. I would never change that. But sometimes I wish I would have said more. There was so much I could have said if I had known it was our last conversation.

And so there it is, our last moments, permanently etched into my heart and mind. Sometimes I ask myself, “What would you have said to him if you had known it was the end?” And let me tell you that it’s fifteen years later and I still don’t know.

I mean I’ve imagined the tear filled goodbye. But I can never get all the words out. I can never really say everything I want to say. It’s impossible to put into words.

So I stopped trying to because I knew that it wasn’t going to change anything. And after a while I realized that part of me is relieved that I didn’t know it was coming. I don’t know how I could have ever said goodbye. And I’ve realized that God knew that too.

I don’t know where you keep running back to my friend. I don’t know if it’s a happy moment or one that makes your heart break all over again. I don’t know if you said what you had to say or you couldn’t say it. Either way it’s hard.

I do know that the more you run back, the more you’ll need to. The past is funny like that. It beckons and then it offers nothing new. I’m not saying that you have to stop completely. I’m just saying that the truth is that if you were given some sort of miraculous do over, there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t change anything that you could control.

Life is full of beginnings and endings. And we don’t always know which threshold we are standing on. Eventually, we learn that life is full of things and people that mostly come and go, and we don’t really control any of it. And once we wrap our minds around this it makes more sense to trust that God has some bigger plan. A plan that won’t make sense in this life.

So, maybe we’ll always run back to the moments that shaped us, the ones that we felt so deeply that they are part of who we are. Those “shoulda, coulda, woulda” moments that we all hold on to so tightly. But I just want to remind you that when you run back nothing is going to change. You’re just going to feel it all over again. And I guess that makes sense if it’s a happy place. But I honestly believe we revisit more tears than laughter.

I want to encourage you to look to the future. Forward motion is always best. We don’t hold the power to change the past. And the truth is that we don’t even know what’s best for us anyway, most of the time.

In Genesis 19:17, the angel warns Lot’s wife not to look back and she does and she turns into a pillar of salt. In Proverbs 4:25, we’re told to let our eyes look straight ahead. In Isaiah 43:18-19, God says He’s gonna do a new thing. And in Luke 9:62,  Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

It’s really difficult to plow straight rows if you’re constantly looking backwards.

I don’t believe it’s sinful to think about the past. But I do believe God wants us to be more concerned with the present and the future. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself living back there. And that’s not really living at all.

My prayer for you this evening is that you will won’t let the past haunt you. I pray that you will remember before you run back there again that it’s going to be just as you left it. My prayer for you is that you will lift those beautiful eyes to the hills and brace yourself for the incredible future God has planned for you.

Love in Christ,

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