Life rushes by and sometimes we get caught up in the busy-ness and just live in the moment. And when we live in the moment sometimes we forget the bigger picture. Our decisions and actions are all a part of the story of our life. As much as we might like the concept of a do-over, that’s not how life happens.
If I lose my temper today and smash your iphone on the ground— my wishing it wasn’t so doesn’t fix your phone the morning after If I post a picture of my best friend in an embarrassing situation on Facebook I can delete the picture tomorrow but I can’t erase it from the memory of everyone who saw it.
One of my students and her friends tried to play a prank on another friend earlier this year. They went to their friend's locker and removed everything from it—and then watched for their friend to come back. To their surprise, an Asian exchange student opened the locker—and was very upset when his things weren’t there. His locker was beside their girlfriend’s—and her combination number worked on his locker, too. They apologized to him and tried to explain that it was just a joke. For the rest of the year he looked at them suspiciously—as if they were thieves.
This story makes me laugh and is unlikely to have any lasting consequences. But some of our actions do have consequences. If you get pregnant when you’re 15 years old you have some tough decisions to face. That consequence will be part of your life’s story.
So—I’d ask you—what do you want people to say about your life when you’re old and gray? How do you want your life’s story to read?
I decided when I was about 17 or 18 that I wanted my life story to say that I loved God and that I loved His people and helped them to see His love for them. And there are some really nice things in my life that might lead you to say that I’ve achieved that.
But I live with a regret—it’s not guilt, because God has forgiven me—but it's a regret that I can’t change that part of my story.
I loved my mother very dearly—and one day, if you ask me, I can tell you all the happy memories I associate with her. But I have a deeply-held regret. My mom was sick—a chemical imbalance gripped her and changed her behaviour. She was often either really depressed or wildly happy.
My mom and dad both believed in Jesus and I grew up in church. But sometimes my mom said really hurtful things to me—and as I grew in my faith I came to judge her. If her faith had been strong enough she could have gotten past her disease—I thought. If she loved us more she would be able to control her behaviour.
As I sat with my mom the night before she died—I saw clearly that God had allowed this terrible disease to be part of my mom’s life—and that I had had unrealistic expectations of her. I saw that God loved her despite her shortcomings and sins. And I saw so clearly that I had not loved her unconditionally. I had not been very grace-ful and forgiving towards her. I hadn’t lived out the best of my life’s purpose in front of her.
And I can’t change that—so I live with regret.
God in His goodness rescues us from so many of the consequences of our sin. Yes, I have regrets—but mostly I have a story of deeply-lived love between me and my mom.
We all have vivid minds and memories that make it hard, if not impossible, to put wrongs and regrets behind us. It's at times like these that we appeal to the incomprehensible love of God which covers a multitude of sins and shortcomings. Psalm 130: 3-4 reminds me that God does not keep a record of my sins but in Him I find forgiveness and the ability to go on serving Him. See also Psalm 130:3-4; Psalm 103:12.