(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
I have regrets. At midlife, most folks do. Our biggest regrets have to do with people. There are commitments we failed to keep, relationships that ended badly, and things we wish we could have done differently. We never want to be a source of pain for others, but sometimes our choices are like rocks tossed in a pond. They ripple out into the lives of people we care about.
Asking for forgiveness is always a good route, if possible. Sometimes, reconciliation isn’t possible. We may find comfort in the Rite of Reconciliation, or “confession,” depending on your branch of the Body of Christ. God’s forgiving love is always flowing. It is often much harder to forgive ourselves. We tend to be harder on ourselves than the people we let down are on us. At times, dealing with our regrets may be hard work. Having done some of this work myself, I have found myself on a new path.
Briefly, I have come to see my failures in the light of God’s love for me. Somehow, all these choices of mine have led me to where I am right now. All the pain I have experienced as things have ended, has mostly been replaced by the peace of the present moment. By God’s grace, most of my regrets have become patches on the quilt of my life. I choose to bless God for all that has been. I would not be who I am or know God’s power to heal without my personal “failures.” (I use the quotation marks here because what is often perceived by us as failure may become known to us as the thing that opened a door to newness of life.)
Now, even if we do our spiritual work with what we perceive as our “failures,” we are never entirely free of them. Sometimes, regrets are triggered by something in our present. Attending a wedding reminds us of a “failed” marriage. We see someone who reminds us of someone we once loved. A song on the radio can take us back 20 years when we loved so selfishly or betrayed someone’s trust. Rather than play “whack-a-mole” with these memories, I have decided to embrace them when they come and turn them into blessings.
Here’s how that works. When regrets rise to the surface of my consciousness, I do three things:
1. I welcome whoever has popped up in my mind’s eye.
2. I remind myself that God doesn’t just call us into things. God sometimes calls us out of things, too.
3. I ask God to bless and heal this visitor.
This spiritual practice has been a game-changer for me. It has freed me from going down the rabbit hole of blame or rationalization. This short embrace of what surfaces reminds that I can always pray a blessing on anyone — living or in glory. My prayer goes through God to that person, and God is taking care of them, too. Praying my regrets has also made me grateful for the ways in which God has healed me, for what I’ve learned about loving and for the joy I have in my life now. Praying our regrets reminds us that we are only responsible for how we heal and move on. God has everyone else.
If we can let our regrets become a blessing, we will be sharing in the redemptive work of Jesus, who promises life from death. Resurrection isn’t just for our last breath. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b)
About St. John’s Episcopal Church
Vicki Ix is vicar of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Main and South streets, Ashfield. St. John’s is a vibrant community grounded in worship, sustained by fellowship and engaged in community-based ministry. We welcome you to worship on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. or come by any time to sit with God in the beauty of our sacred space. Our doors are always open. www.stjohnsashfield.org 413-628-4402 @stjohnsashfield