No life do over. But...
Techies taught us the mechanics of the do over. The final keystroke in this new world isn't the end of the thing. Deleted files can be recovered, and that blog, text message, auto-correct un-correct, love letter, or just about anything can be improved with a do over. In a matter of seconds.
Unless you're a Jainist, Buddhist, or Hindu, or some hybrid of them, life doesn't involve a do over. This life is a one-way street. We all get one pass at it. But, there is a rear-view mirror and most of us have learned to glance back on occasion and see things we would do over if we could. How we deal with them is a matter of personal growth. So, there is no life do over. But...
That's where I am these days. Being a futurist by nature the rear-view mirror isn't my best vantage point for life. Yet, after thirty-five years of pastoral and spiritual leadership there are a couple of pot holes and wrong turns and near mishaps back there I'd like to correct. The truth about life do overs prevents me from moving in reverse, however. Except in fairy tale land none of us is equipped for time travel and therefore can't go back to fix what was broken. Often we see those blotches from the distance. At the time there was no spell or grammar check underlining the work as it happened. They are usually more visible in the rear-view mirror anyway. But, I can't go back. So, how does the do over thing fit into the world of right now. There are a couple of layers---
1. Do over time is always right now. Read Scripture and know that the day of
salvation is now (2 Corinthians 6:2), that we must work while there is light for the
time is coming when no one can work (John 9:4), and that time is short
(1 Corinthians 7:29). This means that we must perform the do overs in life as
soon as we know about them, while there is still time.
2. Relational do overs should receive priority. Most of us have offended
someone, slighted another, been in relational drama, spoken too soon or too late,
missed an opportunity, or been involved in other human dynamics as we've tried
to provide spiritual leadership. When we become aware of anything affecting
other people we should complete a do over of that situation as soon as possible.
Scripture provides keen insight in confession, confrontation, forgiveness, and
other relational hot spots. These do overs should be conducted soon.
3. Some mistakes can't be corrected. Looking in the rear-view mirror I see
decisions made, procedures implemented, actions taken that I can hardly believe.
Time itself and adjustments made at the moment may have provided correction
so that the miscalculation no longer impacts the mission or the people. So, it's
best to move on if it no longer affects the people involved.
4. Don't live in the past. Kingdom motion is forward. There are people, events,
memorial stones, and history that can inform and guide us into God's preferred
future. That's what the rear-view mirror is all about, the glance back. But, if
driving a car is to be the model, we'll end up in a ditch if we stare in the rear-view
mirror. So, "...forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what is
ahead..." (Philippians 3:13) is our basic orientation.
5. Pass it on. As much as we'd like to go back there and fix that problem we were
part of creating, that path is blocked. God placed flaming swords over the
entrance to the Garden of Eden and we can't go back there anymore. Kingdom
metrics, however, where wisdom guides, dictates that what happened in the past
not be erased. The redemptive move is to recognize them, learn the lesson they
teach us, and then pass them on, to provide counsel and advice to those
preparing to assume the roles of spiritual leadership behind us.
The ultimate do over is to teach the lesson learned to someone else. Read through the Pauline Epistles to discern the do over mentality of the Apostle Paul as he imparted valuable lessons to Timothy and Titus and Philemon. His letters are bracketed by the fallacy of his life as Pharisee, the mistakes he made as a persecutor of the church, and the things he wanted entrusted to those who would follow (see 2 Timothy 2:2). In the rear-view mirror he saw some undone things at Crete that he asked Titus to put in order. In many instances he knew he couldn't go back. So, he prepared someone else.
In retirement I've been able to see some things that were not so clear before. It's the 20/20 hindsight thing we all know so much about. So, this week I'm doing four days of do overs, things I would do over if given the opportunity. The hope is that some pastor, church staff member, or spiritual leader will read them and learn. There will be five leadership do overs, five pastoral do overs, five missional do overs, and five preaching (proclamation) do overs. They are being offered as counsel for those to whom spiritual leadership is now being entrusted.
The Bible is full of do overs. Jonah comes to mind, when the word of the Lord came to him a second time. One of them stands out for me. Peter's denial of the Lord is the immense backdrop of both of the Petrine Epistles. How can any of us read his two letters without thinking of that night and Peter's wish to re-live it. What courage it took to write the letters, and especially this verse about being prepared to speak---
...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always beign prepared to make a
defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you...
1 Peter 3:15, ESV
Peter wrote it to prepare us. He couldn't go back. So, he died on an upside down cross and wrote us this note, the ultimate do over of a lesson learned.