One week after Midi and I started dating in January 2000, I was almost killed in a car accident on the 405 freeway with my friend Clayton. What if it all ended then? It almost ended for me as my greatest human relationship was just beginning.
When Midi was pregnant with the boys in 2003, she was in a car accident on the way to work. It gave her a jolt but was not life threatening for her. But it could have been a miscarriage causing accident. What if it ended there for my boys?
In the summer of 2006, Midi, the boys, my mother, and I were in a pretty bad car accident on the 10 freeway in Palm Springs while returning home from a trip. The car didn't flip, but it could have been bad. What if death got us then?
On the night of January 1, 2008 I can think of lots of things that perhaps could have changed that night. What if we hadn't left our cousin's house that night at just that time? What if someone lingered a little longer to talk or to go the bathroom? What if we took the most direct route home instead of taking an alternate route home to show Midi of another way for her to come home from work on a daily basis?
The questions I've posed (the 'What if's) are completely pointless and futile to ask. One could go insane thinking of these kinds of questions. I am not a "What if" kind of guy, thank God. The truth is that people that constantly ask "What if" types of questions are people who think that they can control everything. Seeking to change the past, even if it is just in your mind, is a search for control. We seek control because we are prideful. And we seek control because we want to make ourselves feel safe. The truth is that ultimately we are not in control. Sure, there are some things you can control. You can control what you are going to wear. You can control if you are going to try to do your homework. You can control how much TV you watch. In short, you can control the choices you make on a daily basis. But you cannot control anything outside of you. You cannot control if it will rain...or if there will be an earthquake...or if a drunk driver hits your car killing half of your family. You cannot control how someone feels about you. You can try, but that's called manipulation. You cannot control the aging process leading to death. You can try, through exercise, diet, or plastic surgery, but you are still going to age...and die someday.
My point in highlighting the fact that other than our immediate choices we do not have control is not a call for us all to despair. I am not advocating that because we cannot control the fact that we will die someday that we should live recklessly or apathetically, not caring about our life or others'. Instead I am advocating two things. One, make good choices. You still have a lot of power in what you can control. You can still choose to extend yourself in love rather than to withdraw because you are afraid to open yourself up to pain. You can still choose hope instead of despair. You can still choose forgiveness instead of bitterness. Choices like these have eternal worth. (What you are going to wear, thankfully, does not).
Two, be humble. Get over yourself! You cannot control everything. If you are one who thinks about What Ifs all the time, you need to stop doing that. It is crippling to your growth and it is arrogant. We should not think of the past through the 'What If' lens. We should think of the past rightly. We should remember things in the past through the lens of gratitude. For me, that means not wasting time thinking about how I would have changed things to avoid what happened. It means thinking about Midi and Nathan, missing them, and being grateful that they were ever in my life in the first place. The greatest gifts in my life are ones that I had no control over. I couldn't make Midi love me. It took a while, but she eventually chose to love me. And I certainly had no control over what my child would be like. That he was the most amazing gift God has ever given me, so unique and gifted, so precious and loving, so trusting and innocent...I had no control over.
Thank you, God, for Midi. Thank you for 8 years of her unconditional love. And thank you, God, for Nathan. Thank you that I had the privilege of being his daddy for 4 years. Thank you for all the joy that they brought into my life and into the lives of so many. I am eternally grateful.