Hindsight, the Road not Taken and a Conversation with a Man Named Nicodemus

11 Feb


Photo by Dodgerton Skillhause on Morgue File.

Describe the one decision in your life where you wish you could get a “do-over.” Tell us about the decision, and why you’d choose to take a different path this time around.

There are a few things that come to mind; some, too personal to share. Wanting a do-over is only human I suppose. We all make mistakes. We all have regrets from our past. It is like the old adage says, hindsight is 20-20. It is easier to see the should haves and could haves after the fact. Of course, life does not work that way; at least, not typically. Yet, there are those moments when we do get a chance to right a wrong or make a more wise decision. Sometimes we do find ourselves back at the same fork in the road, able to choose a different course. No, this does not completely erase the first time around; but, it does give us a second chance.

What we may find is that the second chance, while different, turns out no better than the first! It is like another old adage, the grass is always greener on the other side. Many times it is not that the other path is better than the one we chose . . . it is just different. In being different it may be no better or worse. In fact, its difference may prove, in the long run, to be more similar than we would have imagined.

I dealt with this in another post in response to a similar daily prompt about regrets a few months ago. Here is a snippet of what I said in that post, as it relates to this one.


Robert Frost dealt with this very thing in his poem The Road Not Taken.  The other path, which he left for another day, really was not any lesser than the one he chose.  I have heard many people interpret the poem this way.  Equating one path with the noble way and the other, left untraveled path as the worldly way.  I don’t see that in the poem.

I find the poem to be more simple and, because of that, more profound. Mr. Frost is dealing with choices we make in life. And there are times when we must make a choice. We have two (or more) options; but, we can only pick one . . . which one will it be?  Each choice has its own pros and cons.  Each has its own waiting experiences and life moments.  Each has its set of places and people we will encounter and meet.

But the rub is we can’t choose them both.  If I choose path A it will have its fate.  If I choose path B it will have its fate.  There will be experiences and people I meet, if I choose path A, that I won’t if I choose path B and vice versa.  I know it’s rather simplistic; however, it profoundly impacts one’s life.

What life did Frost’s traveler find down that one path?  What life would he have found if he had made the opposite choice?  Maybe both would have brought satisfaction and joy his way.  Again, it’s not that one is better, it’s that they are different.

We sometimes regret that we did not choose path B, when we instead chose path A. But who is to say what would have awaited us down the other path.  It may have been no better than the one we actually chose. Perhaps it would have been better, in some ways; then again, it may have been far worse. That’s just it. Once you decide, you usually can’t go back and find out. It remains forever a mystery: a nagging what-if?


Of course, there are those things in life that so haunt us, which plague our memories that they cause an instant paralysis any time we think of them. There are those words we spoke in anger or jealousy, or ignorance that we can never take back. There are those actions that we committed that we wish we could rewind the clock and do-over. Sometimes we just wish for a clean slate.

We all, from time to time, feel that yearning, that pull of our mind and soul. We all feel the stab of regret. Maybe it is not so much that we need a do-over; rather, we need forgiveness and healing of the past. The past is a funny thing. I was a history major in college (with a double major in religion). I love studying the past. But, our own past can be less enjoyable. The past, on the one hand, can be nostalgic and warming. We remember places and people and smells and it brings back a flood of good feelings and happy times. But, on the other hand, it can be ferocious and unforgiving; a stabbing nagging of our regrets and failures.

We must learn from our past, whether good or bad; but, we must not dwell there. The only place to live is now, the present. The past is an illusion, it is a ghost. The past has past. Now is all the time we will ever have to live and make things right. Now is the time.

In his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus told this Pharisee, this learned man of Israel, that he must, in fact, have a do-over. Nicodemus could not understand this. How was such a thing possible? How could he start all over? How could he have a clean slate? Nicodemus thought he was fairly savvy to what Jesus was doing. He had seen and heard of the miracles and teachings of Christ. But, Jesus told Nicodemus that he may have seen the miracles, he may have seen the demonstrations; but, he had not seen the truth . . . he had not seen the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus told Nicodemus he could not see the kingdom without being born again, a spiritual do-over if you will.

The miracles were great and a work and act of God, but they were not the main attraction. The miracles were attesting to something greater, they were giving testimony to a higher truth: that truth, Jesus said, was the kingdom of God. Nicodemus, to truly understand and know what Jesus was up to, had to be born again. A do-over was possible, a clean slate was available. No, not through a physical rebirth and a rewinding of chronological time; but spiritually, by being raised from death to life through the new birth.

In Christ, I, like Nicodemus, had to experience the new birth. As a Christ follower, my past is forgiven and cleansed in the blood of Christ. While I am still responsible for my actions, I am thankful for the grace of God. But, God’s grace is never a license to behave without thought or concern for others. It is never an excuse to act selfishly or to mistreat others. God’s grace should compel me to live at peace with others. It should prompt me to live responsibly and humanely with those around me. It should cause me to put others needs and cares before my own.

So yes, there are things I wish I could do-over, there are regrets I have; but, in the end, my past does not have the final word.


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11 responses to “Hindsight, the Road not Taken and a Conversation with a Man Named Nicodemus

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