The Unlived Life

By Pastor Gary Jennings Jr.

One of my favorite sites is the mockingbird ( Its a site, according to their about page, that “seeks to connect the Christian faith with the realities of everyday life in fresh and down-to-earth ways”. One of the articles on that site introduced me to Adam Phillips who wrote “Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life”. In the intro, Phillips says,

“There is always what will turn out to be the life we led, and the life that accompanied it, the parallel life (or lives) that never actually happened, that we lived in our minds, the wished-for life (or lives): the risks untaken and the opportunities avoided or unprovided. We refer to them as our unlived lives because somewhere we believe that they were open to us; but for some reason – and we might spend a great deal of our lived lives trying to find and give the reason – they were not possible. And what was not possible all too easily becomes the story of our lives. Indeed, our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless tantrum about, the lives we were unable to live.”

The big question we all ask, maybe even haunts us at times, is “What If?”. I think everyone asks this every once in awhile. “What if I took that other job instead of the one I have?”, “What if I had the courage to ask out that guy/girl in highschool/college?”, “What if I tried harder at academics and made it into the university I always wanted to attend?”. What if I moved to Australia when I was 20?”, “What if I just took more risks in my life?”.

Who knows what our lives would be like if we had chosen something different in those major forks in the road. But what about all the little forks in the road? You might be asking more immediate “What If’s” like, “What if I didn’t get angry all the time?”, “What if I put 110% into my job?”, “What if I was more present with my friends and family instead of being at work in my head all the time?”.

The great thing about the new years, is that these “What If’s” don’t have to be directed at the past in despair, but can be directed to the future with hope that these “What If’s” can still happen.

There are more major forks in the road ahead of you, and of course a bunch of little ones as well. Instead of despairing over an unlived life, focus on the one you have, the day/month/year that is right in front of you, unformed and full of possibility.