Bluesman Paul Thorn sings:
Then we’ll both look back
Over where we’ve been
We will have no regrets
When the long road ends
I resonate with his hope. I think it’s possible to come to the end of life’s journey and feel at peace about where we’ve been and who we’ve become. I won’t, though, reach the end with no regrets.
I regret that:
- I’ve sinned “in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done and by what I have left undone.” Those sins have been painful to me and to others.
- I too-often gave primary attention to secondary and tertiary things. I’ve mistaken busy activity for meaningful work.
- I let cynicism wall me off from joy, because I wrongly thought it could protect me from the heartbreak of disillusionment.
- I confused seriousness and somberness. It took me too much time to see that the challenges which demand serious engagement also call for humility and humor. A light touch is often a wise response to heavy problems.
- I was slow to hear and learn from people who raise their voices from the underside and the margins.
- I didn’t accept the gift of sabbath-rest until illness shattered my health.
- I took longer than I should have to understand that it is fear, more than pride, that twists and distorts our humanity and that it is only Love which can cast it out.
These regrets are the dissonant themes of painful stories. As I relive them, I see tear-stained faces, hear anguished questions, experience nauseating shame, feel the weight of guilt, and taste bitter disappointment, mostly in myself. As remember, I confess, lament, and grieve.
So, I won’t reach the end with no regrets. I trust, however, that I won’t regret my life.
My regrets have opened me to grace, the grace of God and the grace of family and friends. To paraphrase Paul Tillich, I’ve been accepted even when I knew I was unacceptable. I’ve known the liberation of forgiveness and the restoration of mercy.
Failure, brokenness, and disillusionment have been my teachers. Laughter has surprised me in unlikely moments, and joy has overtaken me in hard places.
And, I’ve received unearned and extraordinary gifts which sustain and gladden me: daily bread; beloved companions on the journey; images, words, and songs which unveil hidden truth and beauty; perspective from high on a ridge; peace from a river’s edge; sweet sleep and renewing rest; and the hard, holy, and healing movement through confession, pardon, peace, eucharist, and benediction.
To put it simply (I hope not simplistically), my regrets have deepened my connection to Jesus, in whom there is no condemnation and from whose love there is no separation (Romans 8). I don’t have a life with no regrets; but, because of Jesus, I don’t now, and won’t, at the end, regret my life.