Looking Back Without Regret
I’m 37 years old.
I’m at the weird place where my kids think I’m ancient (even as the cool dad I thought I could avoid this) and where actual ancient people (sorry, Tim) think I’m a kid. It’s an interesting place.
To some, I’ve lived enough life to have something to say about regrets. To others, I haven’t lived enough. I get that.
Either way, I don’t have much wisdom to offer on the topic, so I’ll be brief.
I had a thought this morning about it. It seems that regret doesn’t just come when we’ve done something regretful that we wish we could undo, or just when we’ve missed an opportunity that we don’t know will ever return.
It seems to me that the main factor in regret is time.
Since I have lost the time, then is all lost? Is there nothing I can do to make it up, fix it, get it back, mend what’s broken?
Time seems more the issue than the issue itself, I think.
If that resonates with you, I have one thought and one thought alone.
If eternity is yours then time isn’t a hindrance.
I finished John Mark Comer’s personally life-changing book, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry,” early this morning and one of the things I’m walking away with was Jesus’ slow pace in all things. We don’t ever really see Him worried about time in the sense that most of us are.
If I were Jesus, I’d be worried and frantic about the people around me, healing everyone, saving souls from damnation, massive fish fry cookouts, toppling the corrupt political and religious establishments, representing the Father correctly, beating false teachers to the punch, walking on waves, and the like.
Somehow Jesus was passionately concerned about all of the above, and more, to the point of giving His life for all these things, but still not hurried or rushed. HOW??
I’d be a mess.
I am sometimes.
As a young father, I regret missed opportunities with my children, where my answer was automatically “no” because I had “other stuff to do,” and we’d “do it later” because “Daddy’s busy.” I can’t get those missed opportunities and years back. I’ve got 6 and 9 more years with them left in my home. I wonder when I’m going to get it right and be the dad I want to be. Will it be once they’ve left my home and my prime opportunities to spend time with them have passed?
This thought haunts me daily.
I regret the times I could have loved my wife the way she clearly needs to be loved, understanding what brings her joy, the 5 Love Languages, and all that. The miscommunications that my pride allowed to get in the way. The savings and investments we could have had in the very beginning had I not cashed out that one account. I could make a list. I have.
It haunts me.
I regret the times as a minister when fear prevented me from pursuing ideas in music and speaking, on various topics and endeavors. The things I have pursued, God has blessed tremendously. But what about the things I haven’t? Have I missed things He had for me because of my insecurities? This thought doesn’t haunt me as much, but time makes me look back and wonder “dang, what if I had gone ahead and just tried to…”
There’s that haunting sense of missed time again.
Jesus was passionately and absolutely in the will of His Father, doing all things to perfection, giving all He had/has for God and others, taking care of Himself, and was still unhurried and without regret. He promises me I can do that too, but how do I?
I think I must remember what He taught.
The God who holds eternity holds me. Therefore, time is not a constraint like I think it is.
It seems to me that regret is a symptom of the disease of time. And time tells us that we have a very short window to “get it all right,” namely our lifetime. And if this life is all we have, then yes, we should be terrified. I don’t know if 70, 80+ years is nearly enough to “get it right.” Especially when you or I make tragic relational, professional, personal, mistakes. Or have been wounded deeply by someone else. The clock’s ticking. Time is running out. For all of us.
If He who holds eternity holds me, then time is not the end. Indeed, I’m destined for timelessness. I was made, and I am destined, for eternity.
Not this ethereal return to the “essence” where we exist in a non-personal soulish state, or a return to the Force, or exist without desire or personality as some Eastern mysticism teaches. But as the Bible teaches that our entrance into eternity through the door of the Christ is to know fully and be fully known (1 Cor. 13:12)
Where who we are and who God has made us to be doesn’t evaporate but it is perfected (1 Cor. 13:10). Where our relationship with Him and others is fully realized and enjoyed forever. No time attached. Where every pursuit of our temporary lives here is just a blip on eternity’s radar screen and pales in comparison to forever joy. Where it turns out that these pursuits weren’t worth all of the tears we shed here. (Now go ahead and shed tears here, no problem, just saying when we experience forever joy those feelings will change.)
The Bible even says the good, amazing accomplishments of this life that we are supposed to pursue are still doo-doo compared to what’s coming (Phil. 3:8). Strong words. Graphic, but telling.
My point is, we should spend our days and our time doing our best to get things right. Pursuing God and each other relentlessly. Giving our lives to justice and progress. Chasing our children, parents, friends, lovers. Running after opportunities God has for us, succeeding, making a difference. Pursue that idea, chase that dream, no worries there. Go for it.
But do it with eternity in mind. An unhurried pace that won’t make you a slave to time. Do it like Jesus, having all the important things in your purview and still getting away from the crowds at the peak of your popularity to just be alone and silent because solitude and reflection are essential.
If He Who holds eternity holds us, then fundamentally, I don’t have to regret the time I “lost.” I just have to live in today with forever in mind. And if I can love, pursue, sit and soak in that fundamental belief, I think the rest of my experience with time in this life will work itself out.
If you’ve broken something, do your best to fix it. Repent. Go. Invest the time you need to rectify things the best you can. If you’ve been broken, spend the time you need to heal fully. Don’t let it make you miss the joy in this life. Forgive. Let the debt go. And if you’ve missed out on something, ask God for something else. I’m pretty sure He’s not tapping His toes in disappointment. Other humans maybe, but not the God you’re going to spend forever with. He’s got more time.
He Who holds forever holds you. So no regrets.
Not now. Not then. We’ve got a long time to enjoy joy.