When I saw an ad this winter for a new TV show called Hindsight, I was intrigued. The ad was colorful and fun, and the fact that it was on VH1 didn’t even register. Once I read the synopsis, though, the Nostalgia Channel ever made perfect sense as this show’s home. Also? After reading one little paragraph about the show, I was sold. I knew immediately that this show was for me.
Hindsight is about a woman in her late 30s about to get married for the second time. The night before her wedding she somehow is magically transported to the night before her first wedding. It’s there, in 1995, that she has the chance for a do-over. With 30 years of hindsight to guide her, she’s able to make better choices this time around.
Or so she thinks.
As it turns out, making better choices isn’t quite that easy. Life is messy and complicated and nobody really understands time travel or grandfather paradoxes or immutable timelines. So figuring out what needs to be different – and the effects such changes will bring – is a whole lot harder than learning to live without a smartphone and remembering how to walk in Doc Martens.
Several years ago I found myself in what I still consider The Worst Interview Ever. Not only did I have to battle a sinus infection and postpartum hormones, I also had to drive through a snowstorm. But I was an unemployed new mom who desperately needed a job, so I powered on through.
For all the good it did me.
The man who interviewed me was abrasive and awkward and spent the majority of our time together grilling me about every choice I’d made since high school. From the college I attended to the major I chose to the jobs I’d held, he demanded an explanation for each decision and then asked me, after each answer:
“Do you regret that choice?”
As a matter of fact I did not regret my choices that day! I had reasons for why my decisions were good ones or why the other available options weren’t any good at all. But looking back to that cold, annoying day, I wonder if I’d answer his questions differently today.
I really don’t have a lot of regrets about my life so far, but as time goes on and I get older and, hopefully, a little wiser, I can certainly see immaturity or ignorance that played a part in many of the paths I’ve taken.
But to say I regret any of those things? Well, even now I wouldn’t really say that. Because the choices I’ve made – the good, the bad, and everything in between – have led me here. And those choices and that path have given me a story to tell and a testimony to share, about God’s grace and His goodness and His plans that don’t need my permission to play out.
Do I regret choosing a small state college over a bigger one with more options? Sometimes. But I wouldn’t give back the friends I made (or the degree I earned) during those four years for anything.
Do I regret getting married when I was only 20 years old? Maybe sometimes, in some ways. But not really, because I wouldn’t want to make any choice that resulted in me living my life without Mark.
Do I regret quitting that job or taking this one, joining that church or leaving that one? Nope. I might miss people I left behind or occasionally long for roads not taken, but I would never give up the relationships I’ve built and lessons I’ve learned on the roads I have walked.
Even the hard things don’t fall neatly under an umbrella of regret.
Two of my best friends from college haven’t spoken to me in years over misunderstandings and mistakes. My part in that loss is one of the things I regret most – but even then, I’m not sure I’d do it differently if I found myself traveling back to 1999.
Sometimes the pain of those broken relationships still makes my stomach hurt and my eyes sting, and I miss those two people fiercely. But I learned some really important things through the breaking of those bonds, and I’m not sure I’d trade those lessons for what would likely be a Facebook friendship today.
And just recently I talked with friends about how I felt when I first read the book, Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. Honestly? I was mad. I was mad that Mark and I had wasted so many years simply because we didn’t understand this concept! I was mad that nobody taught us these things, that we came to our marriage not knowing the slightest thing about loving or respecting, that even if somebody did try to teach us, well, we didn’t hear them.
If only we could go back . . . !
Except, no. If we went back (again, to 1999 – a big year for me and decisions!), we might get it “right” this time around. But we might not. And no matter what, we wouldn’t have the story God has given us today.
I certainly wish my marriage had been all flowers and candelight and surprise weekend getaways, but because it hasn’t been, we have a testimony and a “me, too” that God uses to encourage others in challenging relationships. And because we’ve survived our love and respect ignorance and are choosing every day to be a little bit better, we have a story about God’s redemption that I pray will speak and minister to hearts fighting the same battle.
Okay, fine, but what about the one thing in my life that causes me distress every single day? No, I’m not talking about the “cute” “starter” house we bought TWELVE YEARS AGO, even though YES, maybe there’s some regret there (EXCEPT NOT REALLY because we might not have gone to our old church if we didn’t live in this neighborhood and there’s no WAY I’d trade all that has given us for a sewer that doesn’t stop working and windows that don’t get stuck).
What about my weight? If I could go back, wouldn’t I do things differently there? SIGHHHHHHHH. Yes. Oh yes, I would. In a heartbeat. I would take care of this body and set myself up for success. I would love myself, inside and out, and treat myself accordingly. I would!
Except . . . would I?
Even if I went back a decade or two with the knowledge I have today — the mental pictures of what my mirror shows me, the feeling of trying on one more pair of pants that don’t fit even though they’re THAT size, the humiliation of being tagged on Facebook in a photo I didn’t realize someone took — would I really dredge up the effort to put down the Little Debbie cakes and go work out?
I’m not sure I would. As much as I hate to admit it (you know, in case you actually have a time travel device handy and were going to offer it to me right now?), I think this awful lesson might be one I had to learn the hard way.
It turns out turning back time isn’t as appealing as it seems. I might have regrets — people I’ve hurt, cookies I’ve eaten, money I’ve spent — but even though they sadden me greatly, I’m thankful for what those decisions have taught me and the place they’ve led me to.
This life God has given me and the person He’s making me are worth the pain of being fallible, of having less-than-perfect vision, of not knowing what I’ll understand tomorrow.
If I could turn back time, I don’t think I would.