Perhaps, the rare coolness of a gentle breeze combined with the mingled scents of lilies and lemons triggered her memory. Maybe, it was something Adam innocently said or the faint sound of rustling leaves behind her. Either way, Eve’s memory of that day played among the “If Onlys” in her mind as it had a million times before.
If only she’d been content with Paradise and never turned her attention toward the rustling in the leaves. If only she’d bravely walked away from that tree. If only Adam had done his job. If only she hadn’t wanted more. If only she hadn’t been allowed to choose.
If only. If only. If only.
Maybe you play that game sometimes too. Your heart wrestles between all the things you wish you hadn’t said or done and all the things you wish hadn’t been done or said to you. You haphazardly bounce from being angry with yourself to trying to justify your anger toward that other person. It’s exhausting!
May I tell you a secret? Yes, you’ve made mistakes, but it’s okay. God can use your mistakes. No, that thing done to you was not okay, but it can make you better. Those angry words spoken about you or to your face hurt, but God can filter out the untrue and give you the courage to examine what’s left. Ultimately, it’s all okay, if you trust God to use all of it.
When memories get triggered, linger there only long enough to examine the truth that’s left after God’s filtering. I guarantee you, you’ll find love mixed with that truth. There is no losing with God. We either win or learn – and the more we get to know Him through His loving words and faithful actions, the more we get to do both.
“The sensible person’s wisdom is to consider his way.” (Proverbs 14:8) Not everyone wants to sensibly consider his or her own way. It’s much more appealing to scrutinize the life of someone else, to find fault with others’ thinking, and to criticize their judgements. However, as Christians we have faith that God’s Word will light the path for our feet.
“The Lord’s lamp sheds light on a person’s life, searching the innermost parts.” (Proverbs 20:27) That’s often a scary thing, isn’t it? Realizing God knows every single personal thought we have and hears every ungodly word we speak humbles us. We realize we are no different from Adam and Eve. They downgraded their desires to those that longed for control of their own lives instead of trusting God’s love for them, and so do we.
Unfortunately, I occasionally find myself wanting more of me and not so much of God. I stand in the middle of that old hymn None of Self and All of Thee. That song follows a progression all Christians experience. We begin our lives the way the ancient serpent Satan wants us to remain – all of self and none of God. When the world throws a few punches, we decide we might get by with some of self and some of God. After falling to the ground with a mighty thud, we look up and decide we need less of self and more of God. If we stay on this track, we begin to see life differently. We see how things work out when under God’s control. We become less interested in our own way, and more interested in God’s plan. We even muster the courage to pray like David: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Our desire is to move closer and closer to our ultimate goal of “None of Self and All of God”. It is a progression for sure, but if given the chance, others will see this is the desire of our hearts. When your hurtful memories get triggered, let them witness you becoming a conqueror by turning your If Onlys into praise! We’ll all meet victoriously under the Tree of Life soon where there will be no If Onlys!
“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)