Earlier this year, M took to Harry Potter. It had come up with his friends a few times, right as his reading had taken off, and as his dad began reading the series again. “Could I read those?” he asked. We considered the first book, told him that we could try reading it together, and began right away. I was of the opinion it would be too long, too dense for his attention span. But in fact, we read it together in the evenings, with him reading some on his own, until a couple weeks later we finished. “Could I test on it at school?” he asked, and I told him he’d have to read it again on his own. Which he did. And then he tested at school and passed with flying colors, much to his teacher’s surprise. And then he asked to read the second book. To which we said no.
It’s not that the second book is particularly any worse than the first, but as a series, they get more and more intense, growing up in content as the main characters age. We considered the series as a whole and decided, at least for the time being, that he would read one book per year. And after much grumping–in his defense, it wasn’t information we had volunteered up front–he settled for just that.
I woudn’t have thought more about it, except that right around that time I found myself in a discussion with several other moms about Harry Potter, and the resounding concensus was that the series must be enjoyed as a whole. They made compelling arguments about the design of the series and the need to fully appreciate each book upon reading. That starting would be frustrating to the reader, would spoil the experience. A conversation that would have been useful if he hadn’t already read the first book. As it was, I shrank back into the couch, feeling that I had just ruined the Harry Potter experience for my boy. At that moment, I would have given anything to go back and “fix” our choice.
But as M’s seventh birthday approached, his excitement over Book Two amazed me. He asked if he could start it early, since he’d already had his party, if he could just flip through it, if he could start it the night before. He put it in his room so it’d be sure to be there the morning of his birthday. And, of course, that’s exactly when he started reading it, devouring it with an appetite that had been building for months. Within two weeks, he’d finished the book, and this time, he was prepared for the wait for the next one, talking now about reading the first and second again, about how exciting it would be to get to that third one.
I used to believe in the common phrase: hindsight is 20/20. But B has a different assertion: hindsight is blind. It’s dependent on the outcome you see, with no way to figure in what you didn’t see. It’s not hindsight so much as imagined sight, no more real than any other imaginings. If I had trusted my hindsight In that moment when I second guessed our decision, if I had been able to turn back time, I’d have missed out on the reality that awaited me, which turned out just fine. In fact, it turned out better than I could ever have imagined. Now, I wouldn’t choose to do it any other way.
Of course, the other decision might have turned out just as well, as my friends suggested. I’ll never know, no matter what my hindsight tells me. I think this tendency to look back, to second guess, is a very core part of human nature, as evidenced by the “what if” the devil honed in on at the Fall. But God, I think He wants me to look around and forward, to reach for the Holy Spirit in the moment, without being tied into whatever happened in the past. Jeremiah 19:11 states, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Not “the plans I had for you, until you mucked them up” (even if I did muck them up, which I surely sometimes do), but “the plans I have,” plans for the future. And those plans, they most certainly will be different for my friends. Life would be easy if there were a “one size fits all” answer–and don’t I sometimes wish there was?–but the truth is, there are give and takes with every decision, whether I see them or not. If I could just manage a little less hindsight and a little more Godsight, I might see that future as brightly as He does.