by Ken Rolheiser

The ideal road not taken and striving with Gods

As part of my morning prayer ritual I look at photos of my parents and siblings who have been born to eternal life. Over time the image of my mother and dad has changed. I don’t see an old man and an old woman any more.

The struggle of life I am still in is no longer their struggle: Adam and Eve’s fall, temptation, good versus evil, sacrifice, prayer, Christ, redemption, the church. Once in a while we do get a time-out to get philosophic and assess our progress.

God made the world and indeed, it was very good. It is hard to believe that evil can spoil the pristine creation of Eden. Recently I saw a photo of man’s world beside that of the world of animals. Nature’s unspoiled beauty, beside, you guessed it, garbage, smog and pollution.

What is true for the natural world is possible in the spiritual world as well. We can destroy what is innocent and pure or we can strive for the sublime. In the image of my parents every morning I now see their transformation into God’s Kingdom as finished. Their struggle is over. They have fulfilled their “ideal self”.

They no longer grow old as you and I grow old. They followed the call of Christ, “Come, follow me. Be my disciples.” And in the echoes of their lives that still reverberate I hear the sounds that still grow forever and forever.

Another line from Tennyson’s “Ulysses” comes to mind:
“Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.”

Our struggles and sacrifices and sufferings have power to redeem not only us but others in the body of Christ which is the universal church.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church...” (Colossians 1:24-26)
Though nothing is lacking in Christ’s sacrifice, we get to be part of the saving power when we offer our prayers and suffering united with His for the salvation of ourselves, our families and the world.

That is what I am sure my parents and their parents in the faith did before us. That is why I see them as forever young and beautiful – the picture I view every morning is their wedding picture in the black and white of this world they loved in.

In “The Ideal Road Not Taken” Cornell psychologists identified the most common regret that 76 per cent of us have. We do not strive to fulfil the ideal self – where our dreams and aspirations lie. We do well with our “ought self”, the things we ought to do every day.

“The results of the study indicate that it’s not enough to encourage people to just ‘do the right thing.’ We need to establish that it’s vital for people to act on their hopes and dreams, and that it isn’t normal to just keep putting them off indefinitely.”
“In the short term, people regret their actions more than inactions,” Tom Gilovich said. “But in the long term, the inaction regrets stick around longer.”

The conclusion to “The Ideal Road Not Taken” suggests that we need to stop making excuses for our own inaction. So, learn that language you’ve always wanted to study, take that backpacking trip through Asia, write that book... Don’t leave it for tomorrow. There’s only today.

(584 words)