I hoisted my carry-on bag into the overhead compartment, shoved my purse under the chair in front of me, and settled into my assigned seat. I fastened my seat belt, before checking Facebook and my email one last time. I went to power down my phone, but, suddenly, remembered one last detail. Quickly, I opened the Notes application on my iPhone, hit the plus sign for a new note and typed in, Life Without Regrets. Then I turned it off, leaned my head back, and closed my eyes as the airplane taxied down the runway and lifted up into the sky.
Lord, what are You trying to tell me? I couldn't shake the phrase that greeted me earlier that morning. The flight attendant's voice interrupted my thoughts, "What would you like to drink?"
"Decaf coffee with two creams, please," I said. Then I turned my attention to the young woman seated beside me, who I proceeded to visit with for the rest of the flight.
My trip was a whirlwind. The words I hastily typed into my phone soon forgotten. Until, that is, I sat across the table from an "old" friend. The words, life without regrets, flashed into my mind as she described the heartache and sorrow that were weighing her down. Like many others, the economy had hit her family hard. And, in the aftermath, they lost their home of twenty-five years. It was the place she raised her children, where life was lived and memories were made, and where she intended to live until her very last breath.
The following day the words came to mind again. This time at a coffee shop, where I listened to another friend describe the deep pain and profound sadness she was living with after the recent breakup of her marriage. Her broken heart and shattered dreams made her feel wary, reluctant to reach out or move forward.
Processing the regret and pain with my friends, I recounted the times I had been stuck in the present because of my own regret over the past. I shared with them lessons I had learned about what kept me crippled in the present, what hampered me from reaching forward, as well as how I learned to look to the future, once again, with hope. At the end of each visit, I took my phone and showed my friend the message, life without regrets. "I think this is a word from God for you," I said. And they both agreed.
Since then, it made me wonder if it might also be a word that could be helpful for others. So, here are the lessons I've learned about living life without regrets.
First: You are robbed of your joy in the present when you keep rehearsing the pain of the past. For years, after my sixteen year old daughter witnessed a fatal motorcycle accident, I often got stuck in the present and quickly lost my joy when I asked myself or God questions like, Why did my daughter have to witness a man die? What if she had just been a little further ahead or behind? Or, If only I would have forced myself past the police barricade to be with her during the investigation? And, the biggest question of all "Why God? Why did you let that happen to my little girl?" Each time, I would find myself in a deep rut as I repeated the same questions, in one form or another, over and over again.
Second: To move out of the pain of the present you must change the way you look at the past. I had to accept that even though I could look back and ask why, we could not go back! I could not undo the accident my daughter witnessed. I could not change the outcome of that young man's life. I would never be able to stand by her side as she gave the police her eyewitness account. And the worst part of all, I could not hurry the slow healing work that God alone had to do in her heart. However, I learned over time, I could turn my heart to the One who can take the pain and regret of the past, and somehow mysteriously and miraculously work it out for our good and His glory.
Finally: To rediscover joy in the present you must stop looking at the future through your limited human perspective. You must ask God for eyes to see the past, present and future from His heavenly and eternal perspective. He holds our past, present and future in His hands. When I wasn't in the rut of asking God why, I clung to God's promises that He does indeed cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And I have watched Him, over the years, do this in my daughter's life. I have rejoiced as she has courageously taken steps to move forward and has experienced God's grace in personal and profound ways. I have watched her learn to walk away from fear and the paralysis it brings to live a free, full and fruitful life. And, I've seen her minister to others about God's faithfulness from the lessons she's learned and the comfort God has given her out of the pain in her life. I rejoice in the truth that He came to redeem, to heal, to transform, to resurrect, to reconcile and to restore. And I've learned that as we trust God's promises for the future we can then release the pain, disappointment and suffering of the past, and we can grasp hold of hope for His joy and blessings in the future.
Dear reader, I have a word for you. I believe with all my heart that we can live a life without regrets. Instead of asking, "why, what if, or if only," we can choose to say "thank you" to our God who holds the past, present and future securely in His Hands. He is God! He is in control! When we turn our heart to God with the pain and regret of our past, He can then take it and remake it into a masterpiece for His glory. We can find joy again, when we ask the Lord for eyes to see from His perspective. God is in the business of redemption. And when we surrender the past and our pain into His loving, powerful and redeeming hands, He can transform them into a future with hope, blessing and good fruit. Perhaps even better than what we originally imagined.
As I sign off, I pray that you will live your life without regrets! And I would love to hear from you, especially if this message has spoken to you in a personal way. God bless you lavishly!