Can a regret end well?
“There is nothing you can do with a regret.” As I grabbed a cup of tea this morning, I made the announcement right out loud to no one. Is it true? Is there no action I can take in the present to recover from a past action?
The Bible has a word for this moment’s angst: redeem.
The Hebrew word is “ga’al” and means to buy back. The dictionary meaning is “the act of correcting a past wrong.”
I’ve spent three days looking through my Mom’s photo albums, disassembling them, carefully placing each photo in a pile: mine, siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, trash.
The past nine months before Mom left for heaven, we spent together. Her body was wearing down, but her mind was clear and her memory incredible.
One day I asked her what she thought I should do with her many boxes of photo albums after she moves on.
“Burn them,” she said without hesitation. “Many of them are filled with people no one knows now.” At 96 Mom had outlived all in her family generation by at least ten years.
These nine months gave me a gift I’ll treasure always: stories. My questions took her back decades, sometimes even 90 years ago, when her Grandma Hamilton taught her how to make oatmeal cookies.
My regret? Why didn’t I pull out those boxes that I’m now spending hours looking at and ask for the story behind the photos?
Where was this taken? Who is this? What did they mean to you? And WHY didn’t I turn on the tape recorder I had purchased for her a couple years ago?
That’s my regret. When Mom left, she took a treasure chest of insight and humor and wisdom with her. And for these moments I sit in the reality of that regret. I can’t undo it.
Then I feel the Spirit giving me hope. And I remember “all things work together for good.” And I ask the Lord to show me the good, the present and future good that can be birthed from my regret.
Unfortunately, I’m not blessed with the sparkling memory my Mom had. But I can write the stories these pictures bring to mind, the stories Mom told me through the years and especially during her last year on earth.
Mom lived a simple but remarkable life. She lived open-handed and openhearted every day. What could she learn? Who could she love? How could she help?
I’m not finished learning from this amazing lady. Reflecting on her life past is also a way to learn. So, I think I’ll pursue this idea further looking for a way to remember, striving to become more open-handed and openhearted.
Do you have a regret? A feeling of angst about a wrong or an omission in your past. Maybe you’d like to join me in seeking a way to “buy it back” today.
I’ll pray for you as I pray for myself that the Lord will show us the good that can come from our being imperfect but willing.
For Mom’s 80th birthday, my husband and I helped her write her life story. We threw a big family party and gave each one an autographed book as a surprise. Several times through the next sixteen years Mom hinted that she’s got a lot more to tell and wouldn’t I like to write a second edition. Maybe it’s time now.
Is it time to quiet yourself and let your heart have its way about a regret? After a moment of pain, ask the Lord to show you how even this may have a good ending.
Is it simply time to forget and forgive yourself, or does He have a next step for you to take?
Thank you for reading. Often as I write, you help me look deeper and articulate what was once wandering thoughts and turn them into positive action. Thank you for being there for me in this humbling way. If something I write touches your heart, I’d love to hear from you.