I was listening to a song the other day - I mean really listening. In the lyrics of the song, it became quite plain - we live with regrets. We go through life "looking back" - thinking things through from a different perspective - wondering if we could do it all over again how things might have turned out differently. The lyrics really challenged us to look to the opportunities of today, instead of the missed ones of the past.
The very steps we take come from God; otherwise how would we know where we're going? An impulsive vow is a trap; later you'll wish you could get out of it. (Proverbs 20:24-25 The Message)
In the truest sense, regrets are feelings of disappointment - we experience a sense of loss. In turn, we become dissatisfied with the direction we are heading. In one sense, it is like finding out you have been drifting without specific purpose. Back in the day, my family used to take Sunday drives. We'd pile into the Oldsmobile, then head off to enjoy the scenery of the blooming orange groves, or take in the majesty of the towering saguaros in the desert. We really did not have an "aim" in mind - we just got in and enjoyed the ride!
We sometimes want to go through life this way - just getting in and hoping we will enjoy the ride! What I failed to understand as a child was the "purpose" of the Sunday drives. It was family time - we were expected to share a part of our lives with each other. We'd chat about this and that, finding out all kinds of good stuff about what was happening in each other's lives. Dad would share what he'd like to do in the garden, mom might come up with an idea for how we could make some new decorations for the Christmas season as a craft, and I'd just share the stuff kids share!
We were really "purposeful" in our venture - but to the "untrained" eye, our journeys seemed a little aimless! You know what? As I look back at those moments today, I don't have any regrets about missing an afternoon of play with the neighbors. Yep...while I was GOING THROUGH them, I was totally dissatisfied! I wanted to be with the girls - engaged in playing some game or dressing and redressing the Barbie dolls. Isn't it amazing how many times we are "going through" things with a totally different perspective than we look back on those same times? With Dad gone, mom failing in her health, and me all grown up, there are days I just wish for the simplicity of the Sunday drive!
Let me be totally transparent here - as I believe transparency helps us grow. I do indeed have regrets! As I walked through one "botched" period of my life after another, I formed some big regrets. I spent a great deal of time living in a fantasy life in my teenage years - I wonder now what life would have been like if I would have really had a sense of purpose in those years. I spent ten years in a marriage, only to see it end in divorce. Do I have regrets for missed opportunities there - you bet. I raised two kids, from the ages of 7 & 9, on my own after the divorce. I worked a little more than I really had to, missed a whole lot of parent/teacher conferences, and don't really know if my kids did their homework! Yep, a few regrets there.
Yet...in looking back...through the eyes of redeeming love...here's what I see:
- Lots of lessons of grace! Those teenage years, when I was frustrating my parents to no end - lots and lots of lessons of grace!
- Lots of lessons of forgiveness! The marriage ended, but life went on. I could hold closely to the sense of betrayal - a vow broken - or I could release and let go. I chose the latter. Not once, but over and over again - until I really meant it!
- Lots of lessons of gratitude! My kids didn't become astronauts or take on world hunger, but they did turn out pretty doggone special! We enjoyed the moments we made for each other - maybe not at first, but when I hear them talking about those moments today, I know they mattered to them! This gives me hope and a whole lot of gratitude to a great God who watched over the three of us during those years.
So, I don't know what "regrets" you may be looking at life through - but I do know this:
- If we go through life seeing it through the "lenses" of regret, we will never change from always wishing for something better! We will always see the lost opportunities and we will continue to miss the ones right in front of us.