Releasing Burdens of Regret

            When I was working in the Assisted Living industry as a sales representative and as an Administrator, I had a lot of personal conversations with the elderly.  During many of those moments, I’d ask the individuals if they had any regrets.  Some said no and were very content with their lives.  But many said yes, and would go on to share anxieties in an attempt to release their burdens.

            While I can’t statistically give you the percentages, there seemed to be one popular regret that these individuals would share with me.  “I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life focused on work.”  That particular regret was the cause of many different anxieties; from dysfunctional relationships with family members and friends to missing out on opportunities to have fun. 

            I’ll never forget the reflections of one woman in her 90’s when she said, “we all think we are going to live forever.  We wait until we have enough money.  We wait until we have enough time.  We wait for this and for that and by the time we are ready, life has passed us by.” 

If only we spent more time appreciating life.  It’s a cultural norm in our society.  We get into habits that take up our energy.  And in the end, when we look back on our lives, will we also be saying, “If only”?

I wonder if Peter regretted taking Jesus aside to rebuke him?  Imagine saying something to Jesus that would initiate the response, “Get behind me Satan!”  In an attempt to voice his own beliefs that Jesus had come to save Israel from their immediate foes, he was reprimanded by the Son of God as being a vehicle of Satan.

If only we could see the big picture.  Every one of us has twisted our understanding of faith to fit our own perspectives and interests, just like Peter.   IF ONLY, we could grasp the meaning of what it means to put Christ at the center of our lives and to experience the freedom of forgiveness. 

What would it be like to live without the anxieties and/or regrets of past mistakes?  Having no agendas other than loving and serving one another and making space for others in the center of our lives.

And of course we have the verse that I referenced last week.  “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”  What does it mean to deny oneself?

It means to see life as service to God rather than to ourselves.  Peter didn’t want Jesus talking about dying because it went against his beliefs that Jesus had come to save Israel from their enemies.  His agenda for Jesus was to make his life better.  And by the way, what does it mean that the Son of God would come to earth and die?

Denying oneself is about bringing glory to God rather than to our own efforts.  When we realize that this life is about living in the freedom of Christ’s love and forgiveness, and purpose is found in serving others not out of obligation but out of pure compassion and mercy that regrets begin to disappear.  We can experience forgiveness and trust that God has truly forgiven and let it go.  So we can stop spending energy worrying about our past actions, words, decisions, etc. and focus on a life freed from those burdens.

Since Ash Wednesday, I’ve been going through a daily Lenten Meditation booklet written by Helmut Thielicke.  Last week he addressed the question of suffering.  We typically want to ask ‘Why?’ when something happens against our plans.  That response looks backwards for causes and usually ends with “because of this or that, God did this or that.”  Undoubtedly we get caught in a never-ending circle of asking ‘Why?” because we are focused on ourselves.

On the other hand, Jesus turns the question from ‘Why’ to “To what end?”  It allows for surprise and points to God’s will, trusting in a larger picture than just our own personal universes.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays to God the Father to remove this necessary experience of crucifixion, but not Jesus will, rather God the Father’s will be done.  All of the ‘whys’ in the world wouldn’t have comforted Jesus.  Instead, he searched ‘to what end’ and recognized a bigger picture than his own personal conveniences.

Our pasts are filled with roller coasters of both good and bad experiences; some are our own consequences, and others out of our control.  But the past cannot be changed.  Regrets can never be redone.  And Jesus has covered them all with his blood.  Let’s trust in his forgiveness and release the anxiety.  It will lead to God’s peace and joy.  Amen.