If I Knew Then…

“Knowledge without wisdom is like a load of books
on the back of a donkey.” Japanese proverb –


As we get older, sometimes we look back on who we were and what we did in our younger years. Sometimes we are happy about the choices we made, sometimes we wish we could jump in the delorean, go back in time and kick our own rear ends.

I made a lot of foolish choices as a teenager. My parents tried to steer me the right direction, but nothing they did made any difference. I knew exactly what I was doing, I knew exactly where I was going, I knew exactly how to get there. Except for none of that stuff ever really happened. Not the way it was supposed to in my mind anyway.

I was going to graduate from Harrah High, go to Oklahoma Baptist, then Southwestern Seminary, then become the next Dawson McAllister. Except that because of my hard-headedness it took an extra four years after high school for me to get to OBU, then between OBU and Southwestern was another four years. I did eventually graduate from all those institutions though, and I did become a pastor. But I don’t have a radio show or anything, and it’s been nearly 10 years since I was on staff in a church of any kind.

Now though – now that I’m pushing 50 – that’s when I get all teachable. That’s when I decide to really let go of my own will and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Now is when I decide it’s time to trust him with (what’s left of) my life.

I get a little upset at myself for not taking into account as a younger person that our time is limited here. I had no sense of urgency, I had no real plan, I had no idea that it would all go so fast and that I would wake up one day, what oddly enough seems like both 20 seconds and 400 years later, and come to the conclusion that I’ve been doing it wrong this whole time.

The transformation was almost instantaneous though. We went to the church we attend for the first time almost five years ago. Within 6 months pretty much everything in our lives had changed for the better – We just “got it” all of a sudden. It was like all of heaven opened up to us and took us in and just made everything that wrong right.

But I still want to go back in time and kick my own butt.

I want to tell myself to stop dipping snuff. I want to tell myself about moderation. I want to tell myself that if I don’t do anything else I tell myself, at the very least, buckle your stinking seat belt when you ditch church and go fishing on April 1st, 1990. Or just don’t ditch church.

I want to tell myself that just because Tina broke up with me doesn’t mean I won’t find the love of my life.

I want to tell myself that I should look around at the friends I have – and they were true friends that I love to this day.

I want to tell myself that I won’t be stuck driving a worn out 1973 Camaro forever. Or a worn out 1964 Ford truck. Or a worn out 1986 Mustang. Or a worn out 1971 Skylark. And I would tell myself, no matter what, to hang on to that Skylark, cuz dang.

But you know what? I wouldn’t listen. If I went back and told myself, in detail, how the future would unfold, what pitfalls to avoid, where to turn left and where to turn right, I would still end up messing it all up. I didn’t listen to my parents, didn’t listen to my pastors, didn’t listen to my teachers, didn’t listen to God. I was who I was, did what I did and that’s that.

Jesus told a story once about a rich man and a poor man who died. The poor man, Lazarus, was taken by the angels into the presence of Abraham, while the rich man was sent to a place of torment. The rich man cried out for Lazarus to dip his finger in water and come ease his suffering, but it was not possible because a wide expanse separated the two. Then the rich man asked that Lazarus be sent to warn his like-minded brothers of his fate so that they could change their ways before it was too late. Abraham answered the rich man, saying “They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them.” “I know, Father Abraham,” said the rich man, “but they’re not listening. If someone came back to the from the dead they would change their ways.” Abraham replied, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, they are not going to be convinced even by someone who raises from the dead.”

If I wouldn’t listen to anyone else my life, why would I listen to my future self? I wouldn’t. But all is not lost.

I am reminded of something someone once told me – God does God stuff, stuff only he can do, and we have to do people stuff – stuff God won’t do for us. God is the Great Redeemer! But we have to grow in wisdom or all the things we learn over time won’t make any difference. Paul said this in Eph 5:15-16Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”

If we don’t seek wisdom, all the knowledge in the world won’t help a bit. And here’s the thing – we can gain all the knowledge there is all on our own, but wisdom comes from God. And to get wisdom, we have to ask for it. James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Of you’re tired of your past hanging over your head, if you’re done with all that – seek God! Ask him for wisdom! Ask him to do what only he can do, then  do what he will let you do on your own – walk in the wisdom he provides. Make the most of your time – because when it’s gone, well, it’s gone.

My time is not up. I’ve messed a lot of things up. But I have grown in wisdom, and God is redeeming that time I thought was wasted. There is no waste in the kingdom! Everything is for his glory – the question is, will you walk in wisdom or will you walk your own path? You can’t go both ways – so choose, but choose wisely!

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