I've invested some time in reflection these last several months. During the dark moments - and there have been many - I have reflected on the "could haves" and "should haves" in my life. I've ruminated over regrets. I've agonized over choices made and opportunities lost.
To be completely honest, it has been difficult. Painful. Draining.
I am forty-two years old, and I can't help but think that, by now, I should have gotten it together. When I was a younger man and I would make a mistake, those around me would chalk it up to youth and inexperience. When I would offend someone, they were quicker to look past my actions and assume the best about my intentions.
But those days are long past.
I have this sense that, by now, I should have fewer of those regrettable moments. There should be more distance between my relational missteps. And, actually, I think there are fewer of those moments, I think. I am more relationally adept. But at age forty-two, and in the work that I do, even a very occasional mistake seems to carry with it more consequence.
It's a Wonderful Life was on the television tonight. I can relate to George Bailey. George lived with regrets. And in the darkest moment of his life they flooded his mind like a tsunami. He saw the places he wanted to go but never did. He thought how his wife would have been better of if she had married Sam Wainright. He even went so far as to reckon that his family would be better off with a $15,000 life insurance settlement and no husband and father.
Is there any man who hasn't wondered if he should have taken a different turn at the crossroads of his life?
I have - especially on days like today.
It is then that I cling to George Bailey. At the conclusion of Frank Capra's masterpiece, George learns that he really did make a difference. Maybe he didn't build sky scrapers or design railroad trestles, but he really did make a difference. At George's lowest point, Clarence, George's guardian angel tells him, "Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole . . ."
There are a lot of things I guess I would do differently. But here I am. I haven't made a million. I am not the pastor of a mega-church. My mailbox isn't overflowing with speaking invitations.
But, like George Bailey, I am trusting that my legacy is at the same time more obscure and more profound. My legacy is named Abby; my legacy is named Caleb; my legacy is named Jonah. I'm clinging to that, this Christmas.