by Marjorie George
To everyone who received a “test” message from this site this past Tuesday – I am sorry. The truth is, I was working on a new design for the site and thought I was on the practice page. I was not.
Even as I hit the “activate” button, my mind clicked in and I grabbed the air – “nooooooooo.” But it was too late. I was hoping most of you would think it was a system-generated test. But I must confess my mistake.
And you were so gracious – you replied that you had received the test, and you tried to click on the link, but it went nowhere. The management regrets the error.
The management regrets . . . We spend a good deal of our lives – probably more than we should – regretting our mistakes. Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that. I wish I had stayed in school. I should have listened to my father. I should not have spent that money. I should not have said that. I should not have eaten the cookie.
Regret lurks in the soul, says Joan Chittester, especially among the aging. She reminds her listeners in a video produced by Spirituality and Practice of words from Hindu spiritualist Sivananda: “Do not brood over past mistakes and failures; that will only fill your mind with grief, regret, and depression.”
Let it go, they say. There is nothing you can do about it, they advise. We all make mistakes, they add. So we let it go – almost. But often we hang on to it with a little thread of a tether. And we yank on it from time to time to remind ourselves of the awfulness of it all.
Followers of the 12-step programs understand what to do about regrets: in steps 8 and 9 the recovering person declares that he or she has “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
And what of the injury we do to ourselves when we allow mistakes and regrets to rob us of our standing as forgiven children of God. I said to someone recently, ”I wish I could forgive that person.” And he said, “I wish you could forgive yourself.”
We allow the regrets of the past to determine the course of our futures. And there is some healthiness in that – we would hope we learn from our mistakes. But there is a deeper learning to be had that is captured in a wise phrase I heard recently – whenever the past comes into the present it is always for healing.
We call it redemption, and it is that for which God became incarnate in Christ and lived among us. In redemption the old is not just forgiven – as significant as that is – it is turned inside out and given new purpose. Forgiveness is always about bringing forth new life. Ezekiel saw it when “dem dry bones” put on flesh and blood and danced up out of that valley (37:4-10).
This is much to make out of a simple little mistake of hitting the wrong button on my computer keyboard on a Tuesday evening. But often our little lives are microcosms of the larger life in which we all participate. In God’s economy nothing is wasted, and every moment is a teachable moment.
As James Dennis reminds us in this week’s posting of the class he is leading on C S Lewis, that wise man taught that “We learn on the one hand we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and on the other hand that we don’t need to despair in our worst, for our failures are certainly forgiven.”
Forgiven and available for redemption. May the healing begin.
Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.