Going Forward

By: Dennis Bates

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever grow up. Other times I wonder where all the time has gone. I think I reflect on that seeming inconsistency more around the time of our wedding anniversary than I do any other time of the year. Friday my wife Jane and I will have been married 39 years.  In some ways it seems like only yesterday that we were married in a little Methodist Church in nowhere Iowa on the Fourth of July. And in other ways it seems as if the two people that got married there were two different people altogether.


Okay, so we got married on Independence Day. That should have been a clue of something although I’m still not sure what. Since then we have moved 14 times, raised two daughters, held several different kinds of jobs and ultimately retired. Sort of. I have taken up writing again, published one book, and still dabble a little in consulting for a private business or two. Jane has made a commitment to get back into better physical shape, volunteer more, and spend more time with our two grown daughters.


Still, sometimes I think young and feel old at the same time, if that makes any sense. My body can’t do all the things that my mind can think anymore. I’m not sure if that’s really all that different from when I was younger, but I groan more now when I fail than I used to, and Ibuprofen has become one of my best friends. I heard it called vitamin I the other day and I understand what that means.


Last night my wife and I talked at some length about what we would do differently if we could go back and do things over. What decisions would we change if we could; what days or hours would we like a second chance at doing better? There are lots of them, when you start reflecting . We wish we would have put more priority on church activities for our daughters. Maybe we should have stayed in one place and not moved as much as we did. Perhaps changing jobs wasn’t  always the best decision.


But as we discussed what might have been if we had done something differently, ultimately we decided that truthfully we probably would do the same things today that we did back then if all the circumstances were the same. We did what we did and didn’t do what we didn’t do because of the situations and facts we had available to us at the time. Furthermore, even if we would have changed something, we can’t because what is past is past; what is gone is gone.


All we can do is try to do the best we can from this second of this day into the future. No amount of chest thumping of sobbing can change the past. We have to learn and move on, no matter how young or how old we are.


When you think about it, did Jesus ever tell someone, “You need to go back and change what you did. You need to find all those you have wronged and make things right. You have to sort out the strange relationships you had with your parents and understand them better.”


No. That’s not what Jesus did. He told the prostitute who was about to be stoned, “Go and sin no more.” 


When it comes right down to it, isn’t that all we can really do? If we are doing something wrong, stop it. If we want to do something different, we have to go forward and do it differently. Going backward doesn’t help.


All of us need to “Go and sin no more.” So, as I start into my fortieth year of marriage on Friday, that’s what I hope to do because it’s all I really can do at this point.



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