Do you ever wonder what regret looks like?
Is it like water, pouring down, flooding every place that was supposed to be safe and protected?
Or is it like oil, sticky and thick, settling where it lands and leaving an impossible mess?
Maybe it’s less tangible than either of those things. Sometimes I don’t even know it’s coming until it smacks me in the face. People here (and probably everywhere, really) live by it, though, holding onto what they should have could have would have been or done.
“I should have stopped using before it got this bad, before it alienated me from the people I love.”
“I could have tried harder to have a better relationship with my son/daughter.”
“I would have left him before now if I had known what he would do to me, to our child.”
Here at the Mission, I am surrounded by people who face these thoughts constantly. And there are a hundred scenarios that I left out because regret can’t be categorized. It is messy and unbiased, spilling out on anyone it can reach.
This is a universal way of thinking. Our society defines people by their past actions, by what they’ve done (or haven’t done, for that matter). It leaves no room for error. We are harsh and quick in our judgement, not giving second chances unless we have solid evidence that it’ll be worth it.
I am troubled by this. Fortunately (really, really fortunately), the Bible has something to say about this whole business:
Romans 8:1-2 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
That emphasis was added, by me, to make a point. This verse isn’t saying Jesus holds onto our sins like we do, reminding us of them when we’re at a fragile point. No, when we give Jesus a chance to change us, he does. He walks-or maybe he runs!-straight into our life with his foot-washing towel and he wipes away all of the soggy broken mess that we have made, that we are.
When he’s done cleaning up that mess, he stays! Because he knows we’re going to mess up again, and he accepts us anyway. The choice is up to us, though, whether or not we’re going to let those messes of regret define us, or if we’re instead going to take the blank slate he gives us and draw a new reality, one in which he is in charge.
And I think the thing I have been learning the most lately is that, just like regret is unprejudiced…so much more so is Jesus. He knows our history and he accepts us anyway. He knows why each of us is in the situation that we currently find ourselves in, and he just waits patiently for us to turn around and ask him for help.
So what the heck are we waiting for??