Following on from Forgiveness, we come to a problem every single person, including God, has encountered. That is the topic of regret.
Like flies buzzing around the backdoor waiting for an opening to enter and defile, regrets invade and infect our minds the same way.
We all have regrets. They are a part of life— a part of our decision making. And we make decisions all day. Most of our decisions we don't regret, but those we do regret are like wounds. When pressed they seem to mourn louder than our good decisions ever proclaim. Normally this is a good thing. It means we're not hard-hearted without feelings. God added regret to our emotions. How else do we feel sorry for some of our decisions? He just doesn't want us drowning in them.
The word regret is not in the Bible. To search for biblical instances of regret, we must look at the word repent.
God regretted putting Saul in charge of Israel. (1 Samuel 15:10-11). He also regretted making mankind. (Genesis 6:6).
I wonder how the Apostle Paul felt when reliving the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:58. After he was saved, he would have wept with bitter tears of regret time and time again. It would have eaten at him. The loving words of Stephen,"Lord, lay not this sin to their charge," even while going to his death, would have echoed in Paul's mind for years.
Human regrets happen, and we begin drowning in that syrupy all-engulfing expanse of negative thought when we don't put those instances into perspective.
The Stephen incident didn't stop Paul. He used it as fuel to further his work. To get better at what he did. To become more fervent in his passion to change hatred to love and understanding. And to show the folly of religion and the practicality of following Jesus Christ, who had changed Paul's entire nature.
Why am I on this topic? It's now 3.42 a.m. and I can't sleep as usual. But secretly, I enjoy the darkness and peace the early morning brings. I was laying in bed thinking of an old boss. I thought I would add a nice inscription in my book, FINDING MYSELF INSIDE, and send it to him. He featured significantly in my post-prison life, and I thought he'd enjoy reading it.
That's when I recalled a time he asked me specifically to do a job for him and do it personally. Despite being twenty years ago, I recall it like yesterday. He issued an instruction for me to preserve three large Honda signs, as I was in the sign industry then.
I was Transport / Warehouse Manager, but also the OHS Officer. Two highly relevant and very, very busy roles. Normally, my modus operandi was to put aside what I could and get his work done quickly. After all, he is the boss and deserves immediate attention. On this particular day, I was run off my feet when he approached me with his directive. There was nothing I could put aside, as it was early afternoon and I had trucks and products leaving Australia-wide, urgently. So I asked a good friend from another department to do it, being very careful to include all instructions. "Put aside these three signs." I even showed him their location, patting them as if they were my pet horse.
When I asked my friend later on in the day how he went. He said. "Yeah, I preserved the best one and cut up the other two."
"What?" I replied aghast. "I told you to preserve all three!" Now, he was normally someone I could trust. I had used him many times in the past to get important jobs done. Not this time. He'd in fact re-issued my instructions to an underling. Are you getting the feeling God was in this to teach me a lesson?
Anyhow, I had a hard time explaining myself to the boss. I had no excuse, and didn't reach for one. I had disobeyed him. Of course, he dragged me over the coals. We now needed to make two more signs, in a hurry, costing about a full day's work for 2-3 people. That was time we didn't have and a cost we didn't need. But my main regret, the one that used to eat at me, was that I had re-issued my personally-given command, FROM THE CHIEF HIMSELF, to another. In fact salt was rubbed into my already weeping wound when he added, "I told YOU to do it."
My boss had enough faith in me to assign it in the first place. He knew I would do it unequivocally, as I had so many times in the past. I had a string of successes, but the one that gnawed away at my foundations, like a white ant eating a house stump, was this one monumental failure.
I had to do a lot of work on myself to put this one in the box of past incidents and leave it there. It's no longer a wound. It doesn't hurt any more when I think about it. Now I just smile, shake my head and raise my eyebrows that it even took place.
These choices happen. Many people have made worse decisions. My prison buddies can attest to that. Some of my own other choices have been worse than that one.
Our choices are often a reflection of our own understanding of God. The more we read and follow his precepts, the less we make mistakes like some of mine. The greater our understanding of God's own nature, the more we want to be like Him, and the less we formulate those hastily thought-out evaluations with regrettable endings.
If you are drowning in the sea of a regretful life, you might need to put things into perspective like the Apostle Paul, Moses, King David, Abraham, Lot, and an abundance of others had to do. Each one placed their negative incidents, those that had cost them so much, into the past, using them, not as a rock tied to their waist helping them drown, but as a wall poster spurring them on to a closer walk with God, fulfilment of ministry, and living a regret-free life.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord. Thank you for the emotion of regret, and the power of that feeling, making me truly sorry for some decisions. However, please help me put my poorer decisions into perspective, not letting them contaminate my clarity and future success.
Photo by Brett Jordan