It was a typical piece of junk mail – the next great offer, the last of the big bargains, real savings on my long distance, or something like that. Just before it sailed off into File-13 history, something at the bottom of the page caught my eye. It said: “Four things that you can never get back… the spoken word… your past life… wasted time… and neglected opportunity.”
Never has something so close to oblivion been so profound. So much of our lives are like the ebb and flow of the tides. So much comes and goes, only to come back again. But there are those other parts of our lives that are like a shooting star – they don’t come back. Other things may come that look similar, but that’s only a matter of appearance. Fact is, there are four things you can never get back.
You can never get back the words you have spoken. It is possible to “undo” some of the things you have done, but you can never “unsay” the things you have said. That’s what makes words so powerful. That’s what makes angry words so destructive, and untrue words so demoralizing. It’s also what makes kind and encouraging words such a healing force. The next time you inhale and part your lips to speak, remember: you are writing what you are saying on the hearts of the listener. And once written, your words can never be erased.
You can never get back your past life. That works on both ends: your days of glory and your days of pain; your triumphs and your trauma; your victories and your failures. If they are in the past, they can never be changed. You can’t pretend the bad things didn’t happen. You can’t deny the good you have done, either. Painfully, sometimes cruelly, life goes on, and demands that you go on with it. You can learn and grow from your past, or you can be condemned to repeat it. But you can’t get it back.
You can never get back the time you have wasted. That’s why the Bible talks about “redeeming the time.” Have you ever wondered why the days seem to go by faster as we get older? Maybe it’s because age teaches us to recognize how short life ultimately is, and how much of our time has been wasted. Ralph Waldo Emerson (I think) said it a long time ago: “Only put off for tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
You can never get back your neglected opportunities. Granted, other opportunities may come back in a familiar form. But doors of opportunity are only open for a season. And those doors will eventually close – either behind you or before you. The only difference is where you are standing when it closes. The roads to hell, heartache, and hopelessness have been paved with the sad words, “If only.”
Learn to recognize your shooting stars – your words, your past, your time, and your opportunities. And seize the day. The Lord made it, and you will never have another one quite like this. Oh, and scan that junk mail a little more closely. You never know where you may hear a still, small voice.
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