“How do we deal with our life’s regrets?” was the question I left you with in my previous post. Here are some stories that answer that question.
In our early years on the field, I delighted in joking with our missionary friends and neighbours and complimenting them. Their responses often made me feel great. Unfortunately, these friends tended to be women. What was worse, I sometimes neglected to spend sufficient time with my own lovely young wife and daughters. When, after far too long a time, I finally realized how much my thoughtless and selfish behaviour hurt my wife, I deeply regretted my actions.
I also regret being undiplomatic with powerful Brazilian government officials. I should have been wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. I was not. I was as wise as a dove and my conversations with them may have harmed more than helped my ministry. Instead of enthusiastically casting my personal vision for what we wanted to do to help the Canelas physically, socially, economically, educationally and spiritually, I should have asked the Brazilian official, “What is your dream for the Canela?” then shown him how we could help turn his dream into reality.
Jo shocked me one day when she said, “It’s no fun being married to you.” What?! We were the only family in the missionary community that had a regular family fun night each week. I regularly took our daughters out on individual dates in their teens.
But there was something missing: I was driven to work, “married to the ministry” and to relax I turned to what Jo called “your crusades” which involved lobbying fellow missionaries and leaders to change policies on anything I felt strongly about, from printing Scripture portions to the location of new sidewalks. How I wished that I had sat down with Jo and said, “Let’s think up some fun and relaxing things we can do together, and make sure we do some every week.”
We all have said, “I wish I had done . . .” or “If only I . . .” and from there it is a small step to, “I’m such an idiot!” “Why didn’t I . . . ?” and other expressions of regret and self-loathing. Saying that is not bad in that we need to face up to things we have done wrong and the good things we didn’t do. Where we have sinned against God, we need to confess our sin and accept His forgiveness. Sometimes we simply goof up, forget something, or make small mistakes. They aren’t sins, just dumb things we do that confirm our humanity. We need to forgive ourselves for those actions too.
Many of us regret something we did or did not do in the context of our families. Whenever possible we must make things right with those affected by our actions or inactions affected. We need to admit we messed up, ask for forgiveness, and change our behaviour. But once we have done that, we need to forgive ourselves, and stop beating ourselves up over these regrets.
Satan will try to remind us of the mistakes and wrong choices we have made, and of the hurts and embarrassment we have caused, and he will do this when we are the most vulnerable, just when we are trying to make a new start. That’s when we need to declare,
“Since God forgives my sin against Him, I also forgive my sin against myself. Satan, get out of here, I am forgiven and God gives me daily strength to live the way He wants me to live!”
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