When I am not wearing my glasses, everything a few feet away strains my vision, and anything past that is a blur. I have been wearing glasses for about 20 years, but sometimes there are situations where I can’t or won’t wear them. When that happens, I invariably miss most of what is going on around me.
Once my husband Mike and I were leaving a hairdressing salon when, out of the blue it seemed, Mike started talking about a friend of ours. She had, in fact, been in the salon the entire time, but my range of focus had been so limited that I hadn’t even seen her.
Life is full of choices. Every day there are choices, large and small, and every day that passes leaves a greater legacy of past choices. Some turned out to be good, some bad, some a bit of both, and some we’re not yet sure about, but each played a part in making us what we are.
Here are a few principles that I find helpful when thinking about the past and what has brought me to where I am today.
Question: Why is it that some people seem to lead charmed lives? They have perfect looks, perfect health, lots of natural abilities, and lots of friends—everything—while people like me seem to have no end of deficiencies and problems.
Answer: On the surface, things often don’t seem fair, but a lot goes on in every person’s life that is unseen by others. In the wise words of King Solomon in the Bible, “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven.”1 Not everyone goes through the same rough spots or at the same time, but everyone has their share eventually.
I was relaxing in a little coffee shop overlooking the ocean, watching the boats far out to sea, when I became conscious of a conversation at the next table, loud enough for nearly everyone in the restaurant to hear.
“Why did you dismiss Henry from your office?” one man asked.
“He had no sense of values,” the other man replied. “Whenever I wanted him, he was taking a coffee break. It seemed to me he valued a cup of coffee more than his job. I warned him a number of times, but in the end he had to go.”
Believe it or not, they used to build bridges by first flying a kite from one side of the river or gorge to the other. Someone on the opposite side caught the kite and tied a little thicker, stronger string to the end of the kite string, and the men who had sent the kite over pulled the new, thicker string back across. The teams on each side kept repeating the process, next with an even stronger string, then a cord, then a thin rope, then a thicker rope, and so on. Eventually they could pull a small steel cable across, then a heavier one, until finally they had a cable across the expanse that was strong enough to support them and their tools and materials.—And it all started with one tiny kite string!
I can still remember when it was just me—self-assured, confident, and proud of my ability to maneuver my car along life’s road. I was master of my fate. I loved those solitary hours on the highway, watching the sun sink below the horizon. I loved the feel of the wheels gripping the road. I loved being able to go anywhere at a whim, wherever my fancy would take me at the moment. Life was all mine to enjoy, and I did my best to live it up.
Sure, there were hard times too—lonely, dark stretches of road in the night that seemed to almost swallow me up, times when I had to lie flat on my back in the mud, trying to find a mechanical problem or stop an oil leak, times when I had to replace a blown tire in scorching sun or pouring rain, moments of confusion and frustration attempting to reverse out of dead ends. No, being alone wasn’t all fun and games, but I always managed to brush off those unfortunate incidents and set out again in search of new adventures.
Some years ago there was a popular song about righting all the wrongs in the world. I don’t remember all the words, but the gist of it was “If I were king of the world, I would do things differently.” There would be no more war, or hate, or suffering, or any of the other evils that plague our planet.
It was a noble thought, at least on the surface, but it failed to take into consideration one important factor: God has given each of us free will, free choice. In that sense, we are each “king of the world.” We may not rule over the whole world or be able to make a visible impact on the grand scheme of things, but it is given to us to rule our own personal world. Depending on how well we do at that, we may then be able to have a positive impact on the world around us.