“The past is where you learned the lesson. The future is where you apply the lesson. Don’t give up in the middle.” – Unknown
I spent a great part of my life wishing I had made better choices about things when I was younger. “If only I had known better, or if I knew back then what I know now”, are only a few of the common quotes I’ve stated, and others have mentioned or at least pondered on various occasions. Some of us have learned our lessons fairly quickly and spared ourselves from deep heartache and pain (kudos to you), while the rest of us have suffered a bit more and taken the long route. It’s not that we (I) take joy in feeling pain, we just thought we knew better, until we didn’t. It is coming to the place of realizing that we really did not know any better that allows us to finally take the steps to grow and to own our own baggage.
It can be so freeing to finally recognize that you have been your own problem. Maybe you had a dysfunctional childhood, a poor education or suffered a broken heart from an abusive relationship, but if you are alive and have anything close to a sound mind, you actually have enough to start over. The hardships in our lives are the things that help to forge us into the beautiful creations we are or can be today. Without the lessons who would we be? Sure, perhaps your life would have been easier, but what would that actually look like now? We may never know, but if something is easier to achieve, does that always make it better?
I’m an avid reader and I love to learn new things, but nothing quite resonates with my understanding like the personal experiences I have had. I have spent many years teaching and preaching on forgiveness, but nothing quite taught me the depths of it until I was in desperate need of it myself. I shared and did many seminars on family and marriage, but nothing shaped my heart and mind on this topic like my own two divorces. I have always been encouraged by those that could return to life after going through a major setback, but for years I felt ashamed for the blatant gaps that seemed as if I was living a lie. My sins always seemed bigger to me. I spent many days magnifying them and falling deeper into shame. Who would have known these and many other difficult seasons in my life would have taught me so much?
There is a richness in the journey that lies in the wait, the loneliness, and the pain. The richness does not necessarily mean we have come full circle, but it might quite possibly be in are darkest moments that we are finally able to see, hear and understand what we need to. As I sat depressed after a second divorce, writing in my journal and feeling sorry for myself week after week and month after month, it was not until I finally heard deep in my spirit that I was my own problem, could I begin to crawl out of my shell of shame, depression and misery. I will admit these were very hard things to acknowledge, own and change, but I became committed to the process only because I discovered something new, something better. I had finally gained an understanding and insight to who I really was and my propensities to act out. This understanding came in my brokenness.
Now that I know, I choose to live differently. Although I don’t claim to know everything or even most things, what I do I know I am accountable for and to. The lessons have provided me wit the tools to do better and to be better than I once was, and my decision to be better is not based on a comparison of others, but my own journey. That’s all I know and all that I can change…me.
Now that I know, my conversations have changed. I am less critical and more compassionate toward others that have fallen or are struggling, including towards myself. None of us come equipped with all of the essentials to live a prosperous and healthy life. It’s actually quite the contrary. We learn the most through the school of hard-knocks, and often time it is in those moments when we have been knocked on our ass that we make the time to reflect, pause and consider our prior choices. Typically until that time, reflecting or pausing are essentially not a part of our regimen. It’s funny how pain has a way of impacting our perspectives and decision-making process. If it was patience that we needed, we will inherit it like a badge of honor after a battle.
Now that I know, my new wife will get the best Henry ever. Of course I will make many more mistakes as husband, and prayerfully continue to grow, but the poor choices from my past will not haunt my future because thankfully I did learn the lessons that were purposed just for me. And although I do not advocate divorce, it is a part of my journey, therefore I choose to take those lessons and not make them a part of my near or distant future.
Now that I know, I can share my stories with those that choose to listen. I choose to be transparent (to a fault at times) and genuinely give what I have until I am empty. What else matters? What else is there, but to be honest with yourself? There is always some common thread that we can all relate to.
So as you continue to embark on your life’s journey, make a point to take notes about what you are learning, whether mental or actual, because there will most certainly be a test at some point. The grade is life, the hard way or the not so hard way. We have complete autonomy with the choice, but since most of us prefer not to repeat painful outcomes it behooves us to learn the lessons and get to the place where we can all say, “now that I know…”