What Might Have Been
This is how my column came to mind.
I listened to a sermon recently about the Parable of the Talents as recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-28. One reading of its theme is that whatever gifts (talents) we are given they come with an obligation: Of course in the Bible a ‘talent’ was a sum of money but today’s understanding of the word talent is generally one of an exceptional God-given ability (talent) for instance as in music, sports or academics. In the Bible story three servants who were given varying talents (funds) were told to use them to provide their Lord (lender) a profitable return when he later called them to account for their stewardships. Two were successful investors; the third who was given one talent, made a poor decision and instead of earning a profit with it, he buried it because he was afraid he would fail to turn a profit thus disappoint his demanding benefactor. His risk-avoidance cautiousness caused his one talent to be taken from him with
condemnation and consequently it was given to the servant who had invested most wisely. A question is did he lament What Might Have Been?
So too for most of us, we have been given at least one talent, perhaps more, and the question is, how are we using it or how have we used it or how will we use the talent so that we/He will be pleased when all accounts are inevitably settled. One lesson is: Use it or lose it.
But I want to comment on another lesson to be learned from this parable. If we ignore our gift, if we fail to cultivate it, if we settle for something less, will there not be a personal price to pay? I think of a line in a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) that I read it high school and it has stuck with me, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”
The hopeful assumption is that we can recognize what our talent is in the first place but once we do, then what? Do we possibly later look back on our lives and regrettably see missed talent applications/opportunities, that is, What Might Have Been or are we satisfied with the result?
But there are regrets/consequences that have nothing to do with talents that we ponder or try to escape by blaming others. In a Virginia newspaper, I read an obituary of a public official last year that screamed regret to any knowing insider but thankfully unknown to the casual reader. The writer dutifully filled in all the facts related to the deceased, the basics, his accomplishments and a personal comment or two. What was missing was a family relationship whose name was left out most likely intentionally. And why? Well reportedly there had been a misunderstanding resulting in intransigent stubbornness on the part of both parties, two brothers, leaving them unable to say the simple words, “I am sorry. Please forgive me.” All of these words would have actually been unnecessary with just three others: I Love You. That would have mended the familial discord in a moment, but the words for the two were regretably impossible to utter.
Which leads me to the line, The saddest words… are What Might Have Been… simply asking forgiveness.
Now it is too late.
“Love does not insist on its own way…” 1 Corinthians 13:4
Bill Lee, PO Box 128, Hamer, SC 29547