CAUSE FOR REFLECTION brings about possibility for regret over decisions made and time spent. Only with the benefit of hindsight are we gifted options for ‘what could have been’—everyone is susceptible.
I recall, several years ago now, lamenting the same facts-of-regret within a small-group setting (after all, I was ‘already’ 36 [As if that’s old!]). I was quickly both challenged and encouraged by a more experienced couple there.
A Beautiful Reality Check
They said, “The fact is, you have 40 useful years to look forward to.”
“There’s plenty of good work to be done in that time,” they continued.
They opened my eyes. Both of these people were still working part-time as volunteers in ministry roles in their seventies. They seemed to enjoy everything they did, and their lives weren’t without past sadness and brokenness. They were a real couple, modelling how to struggle well in a contemporary setting. I would describe them, in one word, as ‘warm’; people you might enjoy being around, especially when in a fragile mood.
Their appreciation of regret and brokenness made them warm.
Converting Regret to Learning
There is nothing God won’t do, regarding blessing for usefulness, for the person who has reached that point of turning their life around.
Everyone, without one single exception, has deep and dark regrets if they reflect. Indeed, God made us in such a way that we would experience regret—having wasted parts of our lives.
The Lord wants us to understand, in ways that are personally relevant and meaningful, that even slight departures from the good path bring irreversible consequences. This is not about punishing us, but it reinforces a mode of living common to all. It should come as no surprise. The same laws apply to all.
You are not the only one that feels negative about how life has worked out. You are not the only one who feels personally culpable. And you’re certainly not the only one to have given up.
But such negativity belies the truth that regret, the inevitable human emotion, was always meant to be converted into learning and, therefore, growth.
Focussing the Contemplative Eye
What separates the negative from the positive is focus—where are we looking: to the future or the past; or, to utilise the past as momentum for the future.
A mature outlook on the past will always propel us in grace on a future path to look forward to; one bright with hope.
Regrets are not the end of the story, no matter how old we are. Today or tomorrow are days for hope, railed in the cogency of transformation. As we strive forward, making the best of what we have now, we please God despite the past.
Better is the empathy of a once broken person. They have more for God to use than the person who doesn’t make mistakes (or doesn’t admit them).
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: photograph by Alexander Boden.
General Acknowledgment: John & Fay Edwards.