Hindsight is 20/20 – many of us have heard that a few dozen times in our lives. It is usually said with a tone of resignation or smugness depending on whether we’re doing the philosophizing ourselves or having it done for us. There are enough times each of us can look back and see precisely where we messed up or chose blindness in the face of truth. That niggling doubt or the insistent wondering get shoved aside for the comfort of the moment. Later, we look back and occasionally want to smack ourselves for being obtuse.
There is a quote by author Frank O’Connor that I saw in one of my college textbooks, and I copied it onto an index card and have kept it tucked away in my journal with a few others. Maybe once a year, I remember their existence and pull them out for a reread. O’Connor wrote:
…there are occasions when we all feel guilt and remorse; we all want to turn back time. But even if we were able, things would go in precisely the same way, because the mistakes we make are not in our judgments but in our natures. It is only when we do violence to our natures that we are justified in our regrets…We are what we are, and within our limitations we have made our own efforts. They seem puny in the light of eternity, but they didn’t at the time, and they weren’t.
I can’t say that I agree with everything O’Connor is getting at here because to keep our regrets focused only either on our lapse in judgment or violence to our natures focuses everything inward. The harm I have done is not always, only to myself. When I start focusing so much on me, I stop seeing the pain I give to others.
Still, this quote has been tucked in my journal for so many years because it always causes me to re-examine the regrets that I’m currently focusing on, and there is comfort both in the lyricism and the intent of the final two lines. I’m not sure if it is easier or more difficult to swallow to believe that the mistakes I make are in my nature and not my judgments. Is it comforting to think I couldn’t do anything different? Because, most of the time, I am beating myself up believing that I could. Seeing it in that light, the regret stems mostly in not being able to accept who I was at the time and the choices that she made. Usually I am not even capable of seeing them until my nature itself has evolved. That feels like small comfort when the regrets run deep, and the anger I’m left with is directed at myself.
The longer I read those final lines though, the more I see grace unfolding. It is always working solely within my own efforts that regrets find their way in. Yet, He loved who I was then as much as He loves who I am now, and He can redeem both of our choices. I have heard all of my life that God is in the small things. When you come to believe that, nothing is puny even in the light of eternity.
The grace doesn’t stop there. Recently, I have been struck with the ways that hindsight doesn’t always have to bring regret. Sometimes it can bring grace. It’s not looking back and seeing just how much brilliant foresight I had (pretty sure that hasn’t happened yet). It’s looking back to see the hand of God when I believed it was absent, to see him working all things together for my good when it all appeared to be unequivocally for my harm. It surprises me how much a small measure of grace can begin to redeem a really large mess. Further proof that God’s hand can work within my limitations if I will let Him.
While I was pregnant, I heard the song “It’s Not Over Yet” by For King & Country and tucked it away in my mind as an encouragement I might need after 20+ hours of labor. Those of you who know how fast and furious my labor actually was will probably find this as laughable as I do now. What I didn’t realize was how much it would turn into an anthem of sorts for the 11 months that followed. It would pop on the radio and no matter who was in the car with me, I would start singing just to hear myself say the words out loud. Mostly it was those first verses and the refrain of the title that my mind and heart would take hold of.
Just the other day, I was driving and it began playing on the radio again. Out of habit and enjoyment, I started singing. When I got toward the end of the chorus, I finally registered a phrase that I had been singing for a year yet had never noticed: hope is rising. I had not thought of that song at all when I titled or wrote my post by that name last month. In fact, I had titled it something slightly different, but I didn’t like the arrangement of the words and ended up changing it. I had been repeating those words on autopilot for a year, speaking truth until it manifested. When the time came, I knew the shape and feel of them, their taste in my mouth. I look back and see that now although I couldn’t see it then. Sometimes the more perfect vision of hindsight is a gift. We see the grace that was tugging us forward when the blindness of the moment wouldn’t let us believe it was there.
They are inside your head
You got a voice that says
You won’t get past this one
You won’t win your freedom
It’s like a constant war
And you wanna settle that score
But you’re bruised and beaten
And you feel defeated
This goes out to the heaviest hearts
Oh, to everyone who’s hit their limit
It’s not over yet, it’s not over yet
And even when you think you’re finished
It’s not over yet, it’s not over yet
Keep on fighting
Out of the dark, into the light, it’s not over
Hope is rising
Never give in, never give up, it’s not over
Yet, whoa, yet, whoa