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Looking Back

If I could change any parts of my life, would I?

I glanced up from my desk, and for what seemed to be the hundredth time that week, my eyes fastened on a sign that read: "To err is human, but to really foul things up takes a computer." I groaned as I thought, Computers may make writing easier—but they don't make my life easier!

Despite the frustration my computer occasionally causes me, there's one thing about it I cherish—its "delete" key. What a wonderful little gizmo! With one press of a button, it completely erases an unwanted letter, word, or document.

Yesterday, I wished I could press some kind of delete key and undo a bit of my life. I'd erase the ten minutes of major hail that fell and caused our bathroom skylight to leak—again. Oh, and I'd abolish the thirty minutes I spent toiling at my desk while the spaghetti sauce I put on low boiled over—not only on to the stove top, but on the rug as well. I'd like to undo at least those moments!

But that's minor stuff. I'd love to do away with some major painful, embarrassing, frustrating, even difficult events in my life.

For example, when I was in high school, my mother almost died following surgery. Several times her heart stopped, and worry, like an ugly vulture, hovered over our home. I saw my father cry for the first time, and it broke my heart. I'd love to delete those weeks of heartache and pain.

Forty-five years later, I still have nightmares about the time my husband, Jack, and I broke off our engagement during my senior year in college, causing me feelings of humiliation, bewilderment, and rejection. It would be great to erase those months!

I'd like to abolish some days of excruciating physical pain—the forty-eight hours of hard labor I underwent to give birth to our daughter, Jack's unbearable agony with a kidney stone, and my own suffering from a kidney stone while away from home.

Then there were the emotional times of worry and anxiety in our early years of ministry, when finances were so nonexistent we sometimes looked into a completely bare cupboard.

But the two most difficult years of my life were when my sister, Joye, suffered from leukemia. I'd like to erase the pain and suffering Joye experienced; I'd like to remove the hurt her family bore; I'd like to eradicate the tears and sorrow of that time.

But wait. As I reflect more carefully, my finger pauses over the delete key. Given the opportunity, would I do away with those times?

I remember one Sunday morning when my mother hovered between life and death. As I walked home from church under thick gray clouds, I felt as though I couldn't stand one more minute not knowing if Mom was going to live or die. I cried out to God for some kind of reassurance that she'd be all right. Not knowing what kind of a sign to ask for, I prayed, "Lord, if you're going to heal Mom, then please … just make the sun shine." Even before I opened my eyes, I felt the sun! For one beautiful moment, the clouds parted and the sun shone down on me like a spotlight from heaven.

Then I see in my mind's eye a group of high school students whom Mom had led in Bible study down on their knees praying for her while she lay in the hospital a breath away from heaven. The phone rang and it was Dad. "The doctor said … " He could barely choke out the words. "The doctor just said … Mom's going to make it!"

No. On reflection, I wouldn't erase that time.

And when Jack and I struggled with our rocky relationship, I suddenly recall a morning when my prayers seemed to hit the ceiling and bounce back. I begged God to show me why I couldn't seem to reach him, and he answered by showing me that Jack had become the most important person in my life—and that God would have no rival. I tearfully told the Lord I didn't want anyone to take his place in my life, that if he wanted me to be single, I'd trust him to know what was best. The peace I then experienced was beyond description.

I realize I've been able to empathize over the years with many women who've gone through painful times of bewilderment, loss, and rejection—because I've experienced that. I also remember what I learned during that time about love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Perhaps I'll hold off pressing the delete key on those months as well.

When my mind recalls the times of excruciating physical pain, I'm sure I'd delete those events. Then I remember what I learned about Jack—his tenderness and compassion, the love he demonstrated that assured me we could survive tough times together, the surety he would, if he could, bear my pain for me. And when I saw him in pain and knew he needed me, how my love for him grew! Then I think of Jack saying, when his kidney stone finally passed, "I don't know how, but during these three days I can't even remember, God has somehow changed me." And my hand stills over the delete key.

Our days in seminary and our early ministry years—when we literally had to trust the Lord for each day's food—were scary, no doubt about it. But then I recall the twenty dollars in our mailbox from an anonymous giver, the bag of groceries left on our back porch, the ten-dollar reward Jack received for finding someone's wallet and returning it. In the most critical times, God showed us his faithfulness in concrete ways. On second thought, I couldn't erase those days of need without obliterating God's provision! I'll hold on deleting that.

And those two painful years when Joye was dying, surely I'd like to erase those! But wait: There's the way God wrapped his arms around us and comforted us, the love extended by friends and the body of Christ, the deep ways God revealed himself and the lessons he taught us, the closeness that bound our families together and remains today. I reflect on my changing view of heaven—how precious, real, wonderful it is to me because of those two years. I visualize Joye laughing, singing, and delighting in her home in heaven now, and my finger doesn't move.

As I mentally stare at that imaginary delete key, I contemplate many other events. Even if I could, would I dare purge the events that seem horrible, unfair, and painful to others and to me? And if, despite my limited view, I wouldn't erase the deeper lessons that pain, suffering, frustration, sorrow—and yes, even death—bring, can I not trust God with those events that still make no sense to me?

Am I willing to put all the moments of my life, good and bad, understandable and incomprehensible, into the hands of God, who says his ways are perfect? I ask myself. Then I'm reminded of how God's ways and thoughts are higher than mine, and of how all things work together for good to those who love him.

Now that I've given it serious thought, I'm still glad I have a delete key on my computer. But I'm even more glad that God, in his wisdom, didn't put one in my life.

-Carole Mayhall is a well-known speaker and author. Her latest book, coauthored with husband, Jack, is Marriage Takes More Than Love (NavPress).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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