Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Would it even be worth it if you could go back and change the past?

This past weekend I finished reading Stephen King's newest novel, 11/22/63. From his website, this is the book's premise:

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed forever.

If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be worth it?

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

Explore the Possibilities...

Stephen King is an amazing story teller. Though I've enjoyed all of his last few novels this is by far one of his best ever. It has a great pace that demands you don't put it down. As the description explains, the theme throughout is dealing with the past. Not just JFK's assassination, but the moment a little girl becomes paralyzed, the moment a boy's family is shattered, the moment a relationship is changed forever. This great book got me thinking.

Would I go back and change parts of my past? 

Even though its a piece of fiction, two aspects of the book are as non-fiction as they can get:
  • We all have pain in our past
  • That pain affects our present and future
That I've never experienced some of the heartache used to tell his story is irrelevant. My pain is my own. It is indeed there. You have yours as well. So if you could go back and alter something, would you? If you knew you could avoid that conversation, that meeting, that phone call, that hospital room, that relationship, that boss, or that anything would you do whatever it would take to avoid it?

I'm totally predicting a couple Jesus Jukes on this one (if you don't know what a Jesus Juke is, read this blog post from Jon Acuff). "We can't change the past so we just have to trust God now,"  said in just the perfect amount of self-righteous flare. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But let's just pretend. Let's get a little 11/22/63 here. If you COULD go back and change a couple scenes in your life, which would they be? Seriously...which?

Your answer to that question can tell you a lot.

If you refuse to answer then it could be revealing that you are avoiding your past. As already said, we all have pain in our past and it has an affect on our present. Some people avoid their past like the black plague. It sounds great to say, "I don't want to talk about and relive that past. I just want to stay positive and live in the now." Sounds great, but is incredibly unhealthy. Though you may not want to see how your past affects you, I guarantee that those closest to you experience the residual affects of your past all the time. You may not even realize the defenses you have up, but those around you do. Avoiding your past will make things incredibly difficult in your outlook on life and on your relationships. 

And just to be honest, the person who cops the most attitude about not dealing with the past is usually the person who needs to the most.

But say you do answer. You would love to walk down the stairs in Al's storeroom so you could try and change a couple things (would have to read King's book to understand reference to Al). We all know that you can't (thank you Jesus Jukers), but that you have identified those scenes in your life is HUGE! Because those scenes are defining moments! Those are the moments in life you have endured. You have survived. You have come out the other side changed, tried, and transformed.

So in what way are you different because of them? 

Are you a better you because of the scenes you thought of? 
Are you a better parent, child, leader, neighbor?
Are you closer to God? 
If you're not, then that is the great tragedy.  

George MacDonald wrote a fairy tale called "The Wise Woman" about Rosamond, a spoiled brat of a princess. It's worth the read, but one section I want to point out here. Rosamond had been with the Wise Woman for awhile, slowly changing but also resisting it. At one point after eating a meal the Wise Woman and Rosamond have this conversation:

"Rosamond, if you would be a blessed creature instead of a mere wretch, you must submit to be tried."

"Is that something terrible?" asked the princess, turning white.

"No, my child; but it is something very difficult to come well out of. Nobody who has not been tried knows how difficult it is; but whoever has come well out of it, and those who do not overcome never do come out of it, always looks back with horror, not on what she has come through, but on the very idea of the possibility of having failed, and being still the same miserable creature as before."

The scenes in our life that we would love to change are the very ones that can be used to make us "blessed creatures." They should never be ignored, they should not be relived, but they can be embraced.

When you have moved from abhorring those scenes to being thankful for them, then you have dealt with your past. When you can look at a horrible scene in the past with thankfulness, then you have moved from an unhealthy perspective to a healthy one. Being thankful for those moments doesn't mean ignoring the horror of them, it means being grateful for who you are now after having gone through them. 

You can't go back and change the past. 
But you can allow God to use the past as a means of teaching you and changing you for the better.

Explore the possibilities...

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  - James 1:2-4


Tim Dearborn said...

Good post. I do take issue with your statement, "If you refuse to answer then it could be revealing that you are avoiding your past."

It could be that one understands some of the points that you mention further in your article. If I change my past, then I cease to be the person that I currently am. God has molded me through difficult times. If I had not experienced difficult times, then I may not have grown to the point where I am now.

I think we are saying the same thing, but take it a little easy on the one that says, with forethought, "I do not want to change my past, but I do want to change my future."

bobby moss said...

Tim, I don't feel it necessary to take it easy in the statement for the very reason that I intentionally used the word "could." I didn't say it was exclusive, it is a possibility. I further qualified it by saying, "The person who cops the most attitude about not wanting to deal with the past is usually the person who needs to." That is the type of scenario I was addressing.

So yeah, I like my wording on it. =)