Hindsight is 20/20--Or Is It?
Most of us have heard the platitude "Hindsight is 2020" at least once or twice in our lives. It references the clarity that comes when you are able to see your past actions in light of your present reality.
The origin of the phrase is unknown, but it's definitely connected to the Snellen Chart, which is used to examine a person's vision acuity. The Snellen Chart was created in 1862, so the phrase probably emerged shortly after that.
I've heard that phrase most often coming out of my own mouth to describe how I feel when I realize that I am in a predicament that could have been avoided had I done something differently.
Life is easy to chronicle but bewildering to practice. - E.M. Forster
When I read the above quote, it spoke to me about how incredibly hard it is to see the way forward in life---almost all of the time.
It also spoke to me about how easy it is to look back and see so clearly what roads you ought to have taken... and then beat yourself up for not taking them.
I am a master at this.
Sometimes even when I have become convinced that the way forward is clear... that there are signs and symbols pointing the way... Or even what appears to be Divine revelation pointing me down a particular path, I'll look back and wonder if I am heading in the right direction.
And don't even get me started on how all of the uncertainty that currently surrounds us has played hell on that particular inclination of mine. Suffice to say, I've pretty much installed a large rearview mirror in my head, and I can't stop looking at it.
Provers 19:21 asserts this bit of ancient Hebrew wisdom that is so relevant and fresh considering the circumstances within which we are all living.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
There's two things that occur to me as I read that verse:
First, I get that part about "many are the plans," because I have a constant desire to move forward to do things, to plot new courses, but I also want a measure of control my direction, to plan for any contingency so I can eliminate any possibility of failure.
The second thing that occurs to me is that God often has other, more intricate purposes in mind--wider, more expansive purposes that my little plans can't perceive.
You see there is a reason why that proverb uses two different terms to describe the differences between our perceptions and God's.
Our way of plotting our way forward is limited, finite and almost always muddied by our own fears, desires, anxieties and even our noblest dreams. God is doing bigger things---working all around us, in us and through us to bring shalom to the world.
We are merely part of something that is far greater than we could ever imagine.
It's a good thing that we don't know all of the the challenges we will face, the obstacles that we need to overcome, the lessons that we need to learn in order to move ever closer to fulfilling our unique role in God's divine purpose. Because if we did... we might never move at all.
I believe at some level we know this in the deepest and truest parts of ourselves. And we also know that we have to learn to trust in God's divine purposes, no matter what we face. I read this poem the other day by Carl Phillips that sums this up amazingly:
Maybe between mystery
And what little we can say for sure
Happened, lies a secret even
Memory itself keeps somewhere
Hidden because for now
It has to.
Despite all the things you can't know--you can hold on to this: You have an opportunity each and every day to be a part of how God is saving the world. And the road to that salvation is one that we have a choice to travel... one step at a time in faith and hope, come what may.
May you find strength in your weakness and finitude. May you find hope in your inability to see what's ahead. May you find peace as you place all that you are in the hands of a loving, grace-filled and creative God.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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