I guess there aren’t too many of us who haven’t played the “What If?” game a time or two. What if I’d taken the other job? What if I’d moved back there? The game can be anywhere from interesting to torturing, amusing to masochistic. I try to not spend too much time with it but there are occasions when it’s just too cotton-picking easy.
Most of those times happen whenever something potentially traumatic is going on with one of our kids. An accident, a calamity, a job challenge, trouble in the family, stuff like that. I begin thinking that if I’d made a different choice at some point in my life, we’d be close enough to get there in a lot less than eleven-to-twenty hours and stay there longer than it takes to get there.
As you can imagine, after my daughter, Susan’s, exhausting week of emergency C-section, blood transfusions and return to the hospital a few days later, the “What If?” game has really been rattling its box. One of the hardest things for a parent, at any age, is to not be able to be with a child during times like this.
Of course, the reality of life is that our making different choices doesn’t guarantee the desired result; other people might make different choices, too. If we’d decided to stay in central Kentucky, Susan might have married someone else and stayed in Alaska. If we’d decided to move back to western Kentucky, Dan might have taken a job in Alabama and Ben might have stayed on in Jamaica.
Ultimately, the “What If?” game is at best, an amusing exercise in imagination. At its worst, it is a senseless and counter-productive waste of time. It is far more profitable for us to accept the responsibilities of our choices and exploit the opportunities that we do have for doing good wherever we are. As one of my all-time favorite preachers once said about prospective missionaries, “If a lamp ain’t burning in Texas, there ain’t no need to send it to India.”
And, it might be true, too, that if I won’t make a phone call in Kansas, I wouldn’t make a short drive in Kentucky. There is always a way to love, whether we can see one another’s faces or not.