While I was talking with a gifted pianist, she asked me if I played any musical instruments. When I responded, “I play the radio,” she laughed and asked if I had ever wanted to play any instrument. My embarrassed answer was, “I took piano lessons as a boy but gave it up.” Now, in my adult years, I regret not continuing with the piano. I love music and wish I could play today. That conversation was a fresh reminder to me that life is often constituted by the choices we make—and some of them produce regret.
I have nicknamed our car “No Grace.” Sunday mornings are the worst. I load the car with all the stuff I need for church, get myself in my seat, close the door, and Jay starts backing out of the garage. While I am still getting settled, the seat belt warning starts buzzing. “Please,” I say to it, “all I need is another minute.” The answer, apparently, is no, because it continues buzzing until I am buckled in.
Two of Australia’s indigenous creatures, kangaroos and emus, have something in common—they seldom move backward. Kangaroos, because of the shape of their body and the length of their strong tail, can bounce along with forward movement, but they cannot shift easily into reverse. Emus can run fast on their strong legs, but the joints in their knees seem to make backward movement difficult. Both animals appear on Australia’s coat of arms as a symbol that the nation is to be ever moving forward and making progress.
Iwas driving my son home from school one day when snow began to fall. The cottony fluff came down steadily and quickly. Eventually, we slowed to a stop, boxed in by traffic. From inside our vehicle, we watched a transformation take place. Dark patches of soil turned white. Snow softened the sharp outlines of buildings; it coated the cars around us, and accumulated on every tree in sight.
Years ago in a worship service, pastor Ray Stedman stepped to the pulpit and read the text for the day: “Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that” (1 Cor. 6:9-11 nlt).
In late May 2010, tropical storm Agatha hit Central America, producing torrential rains and landslides. Once it finished its course, a 200-foot-deep sinkhole opened in downtown Guatemala City. This sinkhole caused the ground to collapse suddenly, sucking land, electrical poles, and a 3-story building into the depths of the earth.
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden (1910–2010) believed that character is far more important than reputation. “Your reputation is what you’re perceived to be by others,” Coach Wooden often told his players, “but your character is what you really are. You’re the only one that knows your character. You can fool others, but you can’t fool yourself.”
The Roman paganism of Jesus’ day taught that the actions of gods in the heavens above affected the earth below. If Zeus got angry, thunderbolts shot out. “As above, so below,” went the ancient formula.
Not long ago, someone asked me a very tough question: “What is the longest you have gone without sinning? A week, a day, an hour?” How can we answer a question like that? If we’re truthful, we might say, “I can’t live a day without sinning.” Or if we look back over the past week, we might see that we haven’t confessed to God even one sin. But we would be fooling ourselves if we said we hadn’t sinned in our thoughts or actions for a week.