One of the themes for this month on our blog is “things you don’t regret”. At midlife, many of us are coming to terms with the choices we’ve made, and regret can shadow us like a stalker. In 2014, I wrote a book called If Only: Letting Go of Regret that has the message that God can redeem every single one of our regrets and repurpose them for our good and his glory. Yesterday I shared part one from a chapter from the book that I pray will encourage you if you’re finding that the voices of your past choices are shouting at you in the stay-put-ness of home quarantine. Below you’ll find the conclusion of that chapter. –PerGen co-founder, Michelle Van Loon
All things new
A few years ago, a young woman came to me and asked me to mentor her. I instantly compiled a lengthy list entitled, “Why I Would Make A Crummy Mentor”. Not surprisingly, almost every single one were some variation of my old if only’s. (Old habits die hard.)
I shared a few items from my list, and gently suggested that she might want to find someone with less past baggage to journey with her.
She pushed back. “But you’re willing to talk about your mistakes and show me how God is working with you through them,” she said.
Her words were a shock; a happy surprise. Yes, absolutely, I told her. I am willing to share my if only’s and the journey through them because God really can and will make all things new. All things. Including our regrets.
Her words were like a mile marker of sorts for me. I was learning that I no longer needed to keep my regrets stashed in shame behind a dividing wall in my heart. My regrets are no longer sequestered behind bunkers. They are a part of who I am. They’ve become a part of my testimony of Christ’s redemptive love I have the privilege of sharing with others.
The apostle Peter emerged from an experience of regret with this kind of testimony. Peter, a poster boy for anyone who acts first, thinks later, spent three years in Jesus’ inner circle.
At the final Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples, right after Jesus told his disciples that everyone would recognize that they belonged to him if they loved one another the way he loved them (John 13:34-45), he told them he would be leaving them. Peter told Jesus he’d lay his life down for him.
Jesus responded to Peter’s expression of fidelity by telling him, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:38)
Which is exactly how it went down that night (Matthew 26:69-75). Just before the rooster’s call pierced the dawn, Peter insisted he didn’t know Jesus for a third time. The sound brought back the words of Jesus, and Peter sobbed in self- recrimination. How could he turn so quickly on the best friend he’d ever have? How? There couldn’t have been any other words scrolling across Peter’s broken heart except if only.
At some point, Peter headed north from Jerusalem, to Galilee, and went back to fishing for a living, which is what he was doing before Jesus called him to follow him three years earlier. He knew Jesus was sentenced to death, and had probably heard about his resurrection, but must have assumed his denials of knowing Jesus disqualified him from doing anything more than watching from afar – and remembering.
John 21 tells the story of Peter’s reunion with Jesus. Jesus restores him to ministry after doing some major repair work on Peter’s divided heart. Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loved him (vs. 15-17). Each time, Peter replied in the affirmative to this question. Jesus three times asked Peter to care for Jesus’ cherished sheep, a nod to the role to which Jesus had called Peter earlier in his ministry (Matthew 16:18).
The third time Jesus asked Peter the question, it broke Peter. Jesus silenced every single one of his if only’s with two words.
“Follow me.” (John 21:19)
Peter’s remorse led him to assume his actions the night Jesus was arrested were grounds for demotion or dismissal. Instead, they became the launch pad for his sequel. The rest of his life was characterized by Holy Spirit-empowered leadership. If we have been called to follow Jesus out of the prison of our regrets, then he will use all things – including our poor choices and the painful ways in which the sins of others have affected our lives – for his redemptive purposes.
- What kind of story would you write if you were scripting politician James’ sequel?
- As you reflect on the story of Joseph found in Genesis 37–50, in what ways do you see that Joseph’s brothers have been imprisoned by their regrets?
- How might the regret that hurts the most in your life be used for the benefit of someone else?
- If that regret no longer had a voice of authority in your life, how would this change your present circumstances?
Thank you, Lord, that your mercies are new every morning. Thank you, Lord, for sequels. For second acts. For new leaves and fresh starts.
Thank you that as your peace reconnects the pieces of my regret-divided heart, I discover what your word means when you tell me that what was meant for evil against me can be used for good.
Nothing is wasted with you, Father; not a single bit. Even the most cringe-inducing moments from my past can be a gift to others. It may be that the story you’re writing in my life will encourage them or point them toward you. It may be that because my heart is being united to honor you, I will respond with greater maturity to those you’ve placed in my life today.
But I thank you, too, for the way your shalom is expanding my soul. I can sing this snatch of one of King David’s songs; his words are my melody to you, too: “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:16-18)
You save me. You love me. And peace with you gives me new freedom to follow you, Jesus. There is no where else I’d rather be than here, Savior.