By Joe Rector

Many of us spend much of our time wringing hands and wondering “what if.” We dream about how our lives might have been different if we’d made different choices. Most of the time, we see our situations having improved if we’d only made a different choice.

I have a different look at things these days. Instead of wondering what might have been, I look in the rearview mirror of my life and realize what has occurred “in spite of.”

The first in spite of deals with my existence. Mother’s doctor didn’t realize that she was pregnant with twins. He fussed at her for excessive weight gain and put her on a diet. When we arrived, the doctor yelled down the hall to the waiting room for my dad to come to see what he had done. In spite of that, my brother Jim and I thrived. We grew into chubby children who played hard and lived life to the fullest each and every day.

The first day of our eighth-grade year, our dad died from lung cancer. We felt empty and missed the man who’d been so serious and gruff, yet loving and kind. In spite of having lost our dad, another male role model rescued us. We discovered that our older brother Dallas was a person to whom we could turn for direction. With his help, we made it through some tough years.

My mother has remained someone I look up to. She was left with three teenaged boys to guide through the roughest years of their lives. She worked as an elementary teacher and managed to provide a solid life for her family. In spite of being a single parent, she persevered and did without in order to give to us.

Amy and I have been married for nearly 45 years. Life with me hasn’t always been easy. My teaching job never paid much, but I loved the work. Amy worked during college and slowly developed her skills so that she was a valuable employee to her companies. We started a family and made some unwise financial decisions. In spite of those mistakes, we worked to pay off bills and set up a budget to make sure we didn’t fall into the same traps.

I retired a few years ago and set out to become a full-time writer. However, one year while we were on vacation, Amy’s employer called to say that she was being let go. With no warning, our main source of income was gone. After the shock wore off, we set out to re-invent our lives. In spite of losing our income and way of life, we made a new life that did without some of the extra stuff that we didn’t need. What Amy and I discovered is that a simpler life is a much happier life. It also is one where work takes a proper place in the scheme of things. I returned to the workforce and drove vehicles for a rental company and moved cars for a dealership service department. I still work part-time jobs that help. Life is good.

During the time we worried about our financial security, my faith faltered. I didn’t understand why things had happened and  struggled with why Amy couldn’t find a job that utilized her professional skills. Plenty of anger toward those who’d put us in the situation brewed deep inside. I fussed at God and questioned His presence in our lives. In spite of my weakness, the good Lord took care of us. He helped us to grow closer as a couple, learn to trust in Him more, and find comfort in our simple existence. In His time, Amy found a position with a company that has given her the joy and freedom she always wanted.

It’s easy to wonder and dream “what if” as we grow. However, only after we’ve experienced life can we think about the “in spite of” moments. I’ve discovered that my “in spite of” experiences are much more rewarding and satisfying.