Hi, I name is Eric Wilson. I’m in Minneapolis right now, and I’m in the Sculpture Park, and you can see behind me this particular pair of sculptures—two women, but the face is split down the middle—and I think it’s very apt to what I want to talk about, because the one side represents what we were and the other side what we are; and that strange concoction that stems from the neck down, that looks remarkably like a turd—if you’ll forgive me—actually has something to do with what we’re going to talk about as well. (I mean no disrespect to the artist, but I’m sorry, that’s the first thing I thought when he saw that.)
Okay. What am I here to talk about. Well, we know the song, “Regrets…I’ve had a few but then again, too few to mention.” (It’s a famous song that I think Sinatra made famous.) But in our case, we’ve all had regrets. We’ve all awoken from a life that we had and realized to a great extend was wasted, and that fills us with regrets. We could say, “No, not a few. A lot! And for some of us, those regrets weigh us down.
So, in my case, for example, I was what you’d call a nerd, nowadays. We didn’t have the term then, or if we did, I didn’t know it. I would even say a super nerd in my case, because I used to read technical manuals at the age of 13. Imagine a 13-year-old, instead of going out, playing sports, I had my nose buried in books about circuits, radios, about how integrated circuits worked, how transistors worked. These are things that fascinated me, and I wanted to design circuits. But of course it was 1967. The end was coming in 75. Five years of university seemed like a total waste of time. So, I never went. I left high school. I went down to Colombia to preach there for seven years; and I looked back, when I woke up, at what could I have done if I had gone to university. learned to design circuits and then at that point I would have been right there when the computer revolution took hold. Who knows what I could have done.
It’s very easy though to look back and imagine all the wonderful things you would have achieved, all the money you would have made, had a family, had a big home–anything you want to dream about. But it’s still dreams; it is still in your imagination; because life is not friendly. Life is difficult. Many things get in the way of any dream you might have.
So, that’s the danger of dwelling on regrets, because we think what could have been actually would have been. Who knows what would have been, if we’d taken a different course. We only know what is now, and what is now is actually far more valuable than think, than we realize. Looking at these two images behind me—the one is what we were, and the other face represents what we are now becoming; and what we are now becoming is far more valuable than what we were. But what we were brought us here.
To give you an example from the Bible, we have Saul of Tarsus. Now here was a man who was well educated, had obviously a wealthy background. His family probably bought their Roman citizenship, because that’s a costly thing to attain, but he was born into it. He knew Greek. He knew Hebrew. He studied at the highest level in his society. If he had stayed studying as he did, he would’ve probably risen to the level of leader of the people. So he imagined great things for himself and his zeal drove him to greater deeds than anyone else in his group, or his contemporaries. But it drove him to persecute Christians. But Jesus saw in Paul, something that no one else would’ve seen; and when he knew the time was right, he appeared and Paul converted to Christianity.
Jesus didn’t do it earlier. He didn’t do it before Paul persecuted Christians. The time wasn’t right. There was a moment in which the time was right; and look what it caused.
Paul was certainly driven to a great extent by the guilt he felt at persecuting Christians and opposing Jesus Christ, and maybe that was part of the reason that drove him to such lengths to reconcile himself with God, because no one else is done is much as Paul has outside, of course, Jesus Christ—but he’s in a different category. But no one really has done as much as Paul has to further the Christian message throughout history.
So, Jesus called him and everything he had before he considered both…well, that’s where that other thing comes in—the turd—the word he uses can be rendered “dung”. All the things before, he says, were a load of dung. (Philippians 3:8 is were you go to find that.) Literally, the word means ‘things thrown to a dog’. So, it’s really refuse that you wouldn’t want to touch.
Do we look at it that way? All the things that we did…that we could have done, and didn’t do…and all the things that we did do, that we now maybe regret—do we look at it like he did? It’s crap. It’s not worth thinking…do you spend time thinking about that. We never think about dung. It’s disgusting to us. We turn away from it. The smell turns us off. It’s repugnant. That’s the way we should look at it. Not regrets that…oh, I wish I had done these things, but rather, all that was worthless. Why, because I found something so much better.
How can we look at it that way when so many don’t?
The Bible at 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 speaks about the physical man and the spiritual man. A physical man will not look at it that way, but a spiritual man will see that which is invisible. He will see God’s hand in it. He will see that Jehovah has called him or her to a much greater reward.
“But why so late?”, you might think. Why did he wait so long? Why did Jesus wait so long to call Paul? Because the time wasn’t right. The time is right now; and that’s what we have to focus.
1 Peter 4:10 says that each of us is been blessed…well, let me read it for you.
“Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So, use your gift well.”
Jehovah has given us a gift. Let us use it. In my case, those years spent studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses gave me a wealth of knowledge and information I would not have otherwise had. And even though there were many false doctrines that confused me and misled me, I have been able to slowly get them thrown out like crap. Out they go. Don’t want to think about them anymore. I dwell rather on the truth that I’m learning, but that truth is made possible because of years of study. We are like the wheat that grows amongst the weeds. But the harvest is now upon us, at least on an individual level, as we are called, each on. So, let us use what we had before to help others—in the service of others.
If you still that it was a tremendous amount of time wasted, and I’m not belittling what you went through—each of us and have gone through many things. In my case, I don’t have any children because I made that choice. That’s a regret. Others have gone through far worse, even child sexual abuse or other forms of abuse. These are horrible things, but they are in the past. We cannot change them. But we can benefit from them. Perhaps we can learn more empathy to others because of that, or more reliance on Jehovah and Jesus Christ, because of that. Whatever the case, we must find our way. But what helps us have it in the proper perspective is to think about what we have in the future.
Now I might give you a little illustration: Consider a pie. Now if that pie represents your life. Let’s say that pie is…well, let’s say it’s 100 years…you live to 100 years, because I like nice round figures. So there’s a-hundred-year pie. But I say now, going to live for a thousand years, so the time you spent before you awoke—that’s one tenth. You cut a slice of that pie that is one tenth of the whole.
Well, that’s not so bad. There’s a lot left. It’s much more valuable.
But you’re not going to live a thousand years, because we’re promised something more. So let’s say 10,000 years. Now this pie is cut into 100 pieces. A one-hundred-year slice is 1/100 of this…how big is that slice? How tiny, really?
But you’re going to live 100,000 years. You can’t cut a slice that small. But more, you’re going to live forever. That is what the Bible promises. How small of a slice is your lifetime, your entire lifetime in this system of things, in a pie that is infinite? You cannot cut a slice that is small enough to represent the time you’ve already spent. So, even though it seems like an enormous amount of time from our perspective, we will soon look back on it as infinitesimally small. And with that in mind we can move forward to much better things, using our gifts to help others and to fulfill our role in the great purpose that Jehovah has.