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Regrets

May 23, 2019

Even if you’re not an old person, you may have heard the old Frank Sinatra hit, “My Way.”  It made him a ton of money, and in many ways defined his career.  From the 1970’s on, I don’t think he ever did a concert without it as the big finish.  But some people say he didn’t much like singing the song.  He’s said to have said that if you had sung it every night for 15 years, you’d hate it too.  If you haven’t heard it, the theme is, “Nobody tells me to do what I do.  I do my life my way.  It’s the only way to live, and I’m standing proud because I did it my way.”

There are a few problems with this concept.  Not the least of which is that when one lives their life their way, they set their course for hell.  I think everybody there will be there because they lived their life their way.  They’ll all be able to say, “I did it my way.”  C.S. Lewis said there are two types of people in the world.  Those who say to God, “Not my will, but yours,” and people to whom God says, “Not my will, but yours.”  The second group of people will populate hell.  They will have been the ones who did it their way.

So why am I bringing up a song I really have problems with?  Just to bash it?  I have to admit, I enjoyed bashing it (and could have gone on for a while longer), but that’s not the reason I brought it up.  It’s the first line of the song that prompted me: Regrets, I’ve had a few…  And then the rest of the song goes on to describe how the one thing this person doesn’t regret is doing it their way.

Everybody I know (and everybody I’ve ever known) has regrets.  I sure do.  Books full of them, if I had time to write them all down.  Thankfully, I don’t have time to write them, and you way don’t have time to read them.

When I was in my 30’s, I heard a guy give a talk in which he said he wanted to live his life in such a way that he’d have no regrets, and challenged all of us in the audience to choose this for ourselves.  That’s what I wanted.  Give me the goodies on that.  My notebook was open and my pen was ready (this was back before iPads and laptops and electronic tools…).  Just tell me how to do that.

After many years of life and ministry, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that only One Person ever lived without regret: Jesus.  I’m not Him.  I’m deeply loved by Him, saved by Him, indwelled by His Spirit, have grace breathed into my heart and mind by Him.  But I’m not Him.  You’re not either.

We’re going to have regrets.  We’re going to make mistakes.  Humans make mistakes and will likely have regrets.  There’s a host of things that happen to you and me, over which we have no control.  There’s a strong likelihood that regrets will also come from other people’s mistakes, bad judgment, and just plane meanness.  It’ll happen.  So regrets will be in your story.  There’s just no getting around it.

It’s what you do about your regrets that’s important, though.  The saying is true, what happens to you is 10%; what you do about what happens to you is 90%.

All three of our grown daughters came home for a weekend, recently, to help us start sorting and packing for our move.  Well, not their home.  That was in Tulsa.  But they all came, and it was a delight.  I did my best to stay out of the way of the cyclone of sorting and packing activity.  It was the best way I could help.

Staying out of the way gave me a great vantage point to enjoy all the chatter and interaction.  A million words, lots of times being spoken simultaneously.  Chatter and laughter.  It was renewing to my soul.  I was a happy observer not a front line participant, except for a few times.  I reminded myself that a whole lot of what I was observing was “girl time.”  Good “girl time.”  Renewing for all four of my ladies.  They didn’t exclude me.  I knew to insert myself without good cause would be bad form, though.  So I didn’t.

But it also stirred up some regret.  Regret that too much of my dad-life was just observing, not participating.  This particular regret-ghost shows up to trouble me fairly often.  But only when I’m with our girls, or looking at old pictures, or remembering the good old days.  In other words, pretty often.  The only antidote for it is what I’ll suggest you use on your own regrets.

Years ago at a holiday meal where we were all at the table together, I told them that I had this regret, that I hate that I was so often unavailable for so much of their growing up years.  They looked at me like I’d said it in Czech.  “What are you talking about?” they asked.  “We have great memories of going to camp with you, and we had the best vacations ever.”  They went on with a bunch of other things that were encouraging and affirming.  I was blessed and humbled.  God’s grace had done for my girls what I hadn’t (and in some cases couldn’t have) done.

The antidote – the cure – is grace.  My theory is that grace is the antidote for everything.  Eventually.  When I feel regret and remorse for the times I wasn’t there as a dad, I turn my heart and mind toward God’s grace and thank Him that He didn’t back away from my kids, my wife or me when I chose unwisely and didn’t show up.  His grace never steps away.  Its stream never dries up.  It never gives up.

When my remorse shows up and begins to smack me around, as it did amid the packing boxes and girl-talk, only grace can bring me peace of mind.  Only reflecting on God’s grace, revisiting it in my memory, and thanking Him for it can release me from the grip of a very powerful ghost of regret and remorse.  There’s no instant delivery, though.  I often have to apply and reapply grace many times for the peace of Christ to rule in my heart and mind.  But I can tell you that grace always eventually wins.

So today if you have parent-regret (and I know you do), I have this advice: drink deeply of God’s grace.  Thank Him for pouring it out on you and your kids.  And then apply that same grace to yourself.

Then do the best you can to choose wisely with your time and life, so as to minimize your regrets.  Because you can do that.  You can’t live a life with no regret, but in partnership with Christ, you can make fewer regrettable choices.  This isn’t a pipe dream.  It’s a function of grace.

From → Marriage, Parenting

One Comment
  1. Steve, I found this in my email box this morning…I couldn’t read it all before I went to work. So now I am home for lunch and just finished this good read! A heartfelt message on grace is just what I needed today! God is good! I am looking forward to reading the rest of these “homework” articles. Thank you for staying connected with us through these mini messages with profound truth! Love and Prayers to you and Debbie as you transition to a new adventure. You both will be deeply missed.

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