Last week I went with some friends to Phoenix Theatre for a showing of the play “Miles and Ellie”. It is a light-hearted comedy about two high school sweethearts who separate after a misunderstanding and reunite 20 years later. Ellie has a tumultuous family life,
complete with older sister to whom she can never measure up. After an argument with Miles, she goes to his home to apologize and sees him with her sister. And that’s the end of the first act. The second half picks up 20 years later when she’s dealing with the fallout of a divorce and goes home to spend the holidays with her family (including the seemingly perfect older sister whose life is complete with her perfect husband and 3 kids). Miles is also in town and they meet again. It is revealed that Miles never cheated on her with her sister, she forgives her sister and frees herself from sibling rivalry, and she and Miles renew their love. After the play, we wondered “what if?” What if Ellie had not held on to the past so hard? What if she had just asked Miles right away about who she saw him with? She would have avoided 20 years of pain and being separated from him. On the way home I started thinking other “what if” questions. What if Ellie and Miles had stayed together out of high school? Would they have had a happy marriage? What if they started to take their love for granted and the pressures of life and career cracked their relationship? What if they both needed those years apart to make something meaningful of their future? It’s impossible to know what would have happened, but perhaps what did happen was necessary to bring healing and a long-lasting love for both of them.
The world of “what if” can be a bewildering place. As I was growing up, the world-view I was taught was in line with common conservative Christian teaching of the time which held that God had a plan for your life and it was important to be in His will. Our pastors always impressed upon us the gravity of making sure your decisions matched up with “God’s will”. If you made the wrong decision, you could miss out on what God had for you. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized what terrible theology that was. Not only does it give you a horribly inaccurate view of God, but it’s just not a good way of approaching life. It puts undue emphasis on the outcome of such decisions and leaves one always wondering “what if I’d chosen option B, then I’d be happier”. In reality what career we choose, what car we buy, where we live.. all these life decisions… aren’t the main thing of life. They don’t bring happiness or contentment. It’s the condition of our heart that determines our satisfaction with our choices. And this is all that God is interested in too. His “will” for us is to keep an open heart towards Him – that’s all. We can do that in any career, any stage of life, any city, any anything really. Life is a series of decisions and each choice offers new experiences, new ways to view the world. I’m slowly learning to remove “what if…’ from my vocabulary and replace it with “thank you for…” We’ll always have two (or more) paths diverging in the wood. It’s not the path you choose so much as the attitude of your heart as you travel it.
Blessings to you,