Life is a journey, with unknown destinations and unfamiliar territory.
Life can be full of unexpected twists and turns, sometimes leading to terrains of heartache, frustration and disappointment. It is in these places that I have often found myself thinking “if only”.
As a child I had thought, “if only” I was prettier, then people would notice me. “If only” I was smarter, then people would want to listen to me. “If only” I was more interesting, then people would want to spend time with me.
After I found out that I had an autoimmune disease and my body was attacking itself, I began reading everything I could to get better. I found myself thinking “if only” I had taken better care of myself, then I would be healthy.
If only is about regrets, but it is also part of my belief system that is rooted in shame.
All of my “if only” statements were just another way of stating that I “should” have been or done something different. Should and shame go hand in hand. Wherever shame goes, blame is bound to follow, and often it seems to land square on my shoulders.
All the shoulds in my life have been a heavy burden, keeping me stuck and unable to continue on. Should sucks the strength right out of me, leaving me helpless and powerless.
It is in this state that I often find myself questioning if God really loves me. If God loved me, then why has he allowed these things to happen. If God is so powerful, then why hasn’t he changed my circumstances.
Or I look at the people in my life and think, if he really cared about me, then he wouldn’t have said ….If she really was my friend, then she wouldn’t have done….Fill in the blanks with anything that hurts my feelings.
It can seem so trivial, bordering on ridiculous at times what hurts me. But it’s usually because underneath the surface is a much bigger wound that is deeper than what is happening on the surface.
These tender places are where I carried all my doubts and insecurities, wondering if I am enough, if people want me or like me. This was the source of my shame and the reason I looked towards blame. This was where the message was buried inside of me that everything is my fault.
But blame feels crushing and suffocating, so I tried to release myself from it by pointing my finger at others or at God — usually both.
But it doesn’t work. Blame doesn’t make anything better.
I needed a new perspective, a different way to see
So God, in his grace, is teaching me a new language. I am learning to exchange my if-only statements for even if, it is a language of hope.
It is a guarantee that life is going to have moments of difficulty, pain and tragedy.
But those moments don’t have to define me.
Even if life is painful, I will choose to be grateful.
Even if my heart breaks, I will choose love over resentment.
Even if life is hard and I don’t understand, I will choose to trust that God is good.
Even if life doesn’t go the way I want it to, I will choose to see that God is for me and not against me.
Even if shame tries to tear me down, I choose to cling to the love that wants to build me up.
Even if my world falls apart and nothing seems to be going my way, I choose to have faith that God is with me, hope that life is more than my present circumstances, and love that leads me in triumphal procession to the heart of God.
P.S. Check out this song by Mercy Me, Even If