“A successful man is one who, given the opportunity to wear anyone’s shoes, chooses his own.”
– Jim David
Jim is a friend of mine and he said this to me one day last month. I have chewed on it and reflected on it many times, as I vacillate between regret and thankfulness for my life story. I don’t know why our culture engages the question, but we regularly do: If you could do it over, would you? Or, If you could change anything, would you?
Clearly none of us have the ability to go back in time and relive events or change history. And our culture strives for success. The American dream of pulling one’s self up by his boots straps, each generation providing more for the next so that our children can have “more than we had” permeates our educational system, our entertainment and our worldview. While people might value certain things differently as success, we all want to be successful.
Jim argues that contentment is the key. There will always be someone smarter, more talented, prettier…but success, in Jim’s eyes, is being satisfied and desirous of one’s own life above all others.
“Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance…You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.”
Ex 12.14, 17
The Hebrew people found themselves in captivity in Egypt, over 600,000 men – plus women and children. God miraculously freed them from bondage by a series of plagues on the Egyptians. The final plague that secured their escape was the death of the firstborn of every man and beast in the country. God warned the people through Moses that the angel of the Lord would come and kill the first born in every household, and to escape this plague the family must put the blood of a lamb on their door frame. The Hebrews did this and they were spared from the slaughter: the angel of the Lord literally “passed over” their homes. After their escape, God established an annual celebration for the people which was called “The Passover” in which they remembered their salvation both from death and their freedom from slavery.
They had quite a hard time in the wilderness – even though God physically and miraculously gave them food to eat every day, they grumbled and longed for their life of slavery back in Egypt. They disobeyed God and did not trust Him to preserve them, even after he parted the waters of the Red Sea for them to cross over as the Egyptians pursued them. But every year they still celebrated the Passover to remember the things that God had done.
The promises of God, of the faith, are those which sustain us in good and bad times:
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13.5)
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8.28)
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1.6)
Thus it becomes and exercise of faith to be satisfied in the paths which the Lord has established for us and not wish to change things. Whatever path you have walked, the Lord has guided your steps (Prov 16.9). He has never left you, and He causes everything to work together for your ultimate, spiritual good. And He will perfect and complete the work that He has begun in your life.
Are there things I would change about my life? My flesh wants to scream out, “YES”. But when I choose to trust God I become confident that the trials, the failures, the struggles are all a part of His perfect plan and will enable me to honor Him the most with my life. And therefore, when we trust God we can become “truly successful” by enjoying the benefits of faith and our security in Him, and still choosing our own paths – no matter how difficult they may have been.
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.”
– Ps 143.5