Summary: Part 6 in series "Life’s Too Short To..." this message looks at a life stuck in regret and guilt, and contrasts it with a life in the experience of God’s freedom, release, recovery, and good news.
Life’s Too Short To. . .Live In The Past
Life’s Too Short To… prt. 6
Wildwind Community Church
I would venture to say there’s a good possibility that there are some people at Wildwind Church today who are not carrying any regrets. Do you think that’s possible? I’ll bet there is a small handful of people who aren’t burdened by guilt or regret, who don’t ever think about mistakes they made in the past, who live moment-to-moment, carefree and light. You can meet those people if you’ll venture down to our nursery and children’s rooms!
We don’t have to get very old, do we, before the regrets start piling up. What’s on your list? I wish that when I was younger I had found a powerful and charismatic leader to mentor me and help me learn how to lead. I regret that I never had the courage to pursue athletics in school – there’s a hole in my life I will never be able to fill because of that. I wish Christy and I would have thought more carefully about finances before we made the choice to marry at 19 before either of us were even close to done with school. I won’t even get into the extremely long list of times I wish I had kept my mouth shut. Or the times I wish I’d have spoken up when instead I shrunk back in fear and remained silent. Or the times I wish I’d have thought twice before getting angry with Christy or my children. Or the times I remember picking on kids who were even lower than I was in the pecking order at school. I said things to some of those kids that I would just give anything to take back. I know that when some of those kids think back on the most painful moments of their lives, they can still see me standing in front of them and calling them these awful names and laughing at them. I can’t count how many emails there are in my history where I wish so much I’d have never hit the Send button. I have probably hurt countless people with careless words and emails. A friend from high school died a few years after we graduated, and there had been anger and pain and tension and hostility in that relationship for a long time that was never resolved, never let go of. I carried that around for a long time. I’ll stop now, not because I’m done listing my regrets, but because you have regrets of your own this morning, and that’s what I want to talk to you about.
So what’s on your list? Is there anything more painful in life than our regrets? What is a regret? I would define a regret simply as a painful memory of a time when you wish you’d have spoken or acted differently than you did. That seems to get at the heart of our pain of regret, doesn’t it? At first it seems to, but I don’t really think that definition is complete. In fact I don’t think that definition even remotely gets at what makes regret so difficult for us to bear. There’s one more critical component to regret that gives it the incredible sting it has. Let’s add that to our definition:
Regret -- a painful memory of a time when you wish you’d have spoken or acted differently than you did, that is now impossible to change.
THAT’S what makes regret feel unbearable, isn’t it? It’s not just that you slept with that person you shouldn’t have slept with, it’s that you can’t unsleep with that person. It’s not just that you said something you shouldn’t have said – it’s that you can’t unsay it – apologies are good, but they don’t unsay the hurtful or angry things we have said. It’s not just that you took this drug or that drug or drank this or that – it’s that you can’t untake those drugs or undrink what you drank, and you can’t change whatever consequences you and your loved ones suffered as a result. It’s not just that you argued with a loved one, it’s that your loved may now be gone and you can’t go back and make peace.
Regrets are painful because they are usually double blows. They are painful or embarrassing things we have said or done (blow #1) that can’t be changed or taken back or made right (blow #2). By the way, I’m dealing with these deep and unchangeable regrets this morning. If you’re living with regrets that actually CAN be changed – relationships that COULD be healed, decisions which COULD be reversed – please do that immediately! Each of us will live with enough of the real kind of regret – things that can’t be changed – in our lives that there’s just no sense living with regrets over things we CAN change. If you are currently living in regret over something you have the power to change, and you don’t change it, then I can safely predict that one day one of your greatest regrets will be that you did not seize the day and make those changes when you had the chance.