… but then again, too few to mention.” If you’re old enough to remember the song with that line, welcome to the party!
Whether we admit it or not, we’ve all done or said something we wished we hadn’t, or we may have NOT done or said something we wish we had. Some regrets dissolve over time; others linger for a lifetime.
So, what do we do with lingering regret?
For the most part, repentance helps calm the savage beast. Admitting our mistakes and asking for forgiveness was exactly what David did. His deed with Bathsheba had been done, Uriah was dead, and David’s good name dripped with mud. When the prophet Nathan let David know that God was onto him, he grieved his irrevocable mistakes. In that grief, he wrote one of his most powerful psalms, Psalm 51. The entire psalm is intimate and beautiful. It begins with David’s confession:
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2)
With laser-like intention, David zeroed in on what he wanted and needed most:
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)
David accepted God’s forgiveness and became known as the man after God’s own heart. As a result, God’s mercy became famous throughout Israel. Through the line of David would come One who would offer love and grace to everyone!
Three years ago, as I grieved the loss of my mom, my friend and counselor asked me, “Do you have any regrets about your mom?” I thought about that for a minute, smiled, and said, “No, I don’t. Not one.” And I didn’t. I had taken care of her to the very best of my ability, and she knew exactly how much I loved her.
Much later, I revisited that question in light of everyone else I knew. I remembered things I had done to cause bad feelings and hurt, but I had been on a mission for a while to make peace with all of those people as far as it depended on me. I think I’ve done that now.
However, there is one lingering regret that stays with me like a rock in my shoe. For 35 years, I taught Sunday school. I can’t even begin to count how many elementary-aged children rolled through my classes. I had a blast telling all the stories of kings and prophets, apostles, disciples, and Jesus. I used every tactic I could think of to make the stories come to life so that valuable life lessons would linger long enough to soak into tender hearts. Object lessons were my favorite.
Way more times than I care to admit, I used one object that has become my greatest regret. I used my softball rule book to press the point that we should all know and follow the rules we find in the Bible in order to play the game properly. Now, don’t get me wrong, I will defend our need to read, study, and obey the Bible as long and loud as anyone. But, God did not write a rule book! He wrote us a love letter!
After we married, if Ron had written me a list of rules to follow in order to prove my love for him, I might have thrown something other than a softball at him. But all those love letters he wrote? They inspired me to think of as many ways as possible to show my love to him. (He’s a smart man!)
I suppose this post is my confession. If you happen to be one of the ones who sat in my class, please forgive me and know how very much God loves you. Not the perfect you. Not the rule-following you. Just YOU! Forgive me for not opening my mind to what I should have learned long ago. Go back and read the Bible as a love letter, and let it change your heart. God’s not looking for a great performance from you; He just wants your heart. When you give Him that, everything else will fall into place.
The Passion Translation of Psalm 51 speaks this truth loudly:
“For the source of your pleasure is not in my performance
or the sacrifices I might offer to you.
The fountain of your pleasure is found
in the sacrifice of my shattered heart before you.” (Psalm 51:16-17a)
The name of the song at the beginning of this post is titled, “My Way”. It ends with, “The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.” How sad!
Lord, help us remember that it was YOU who took the blows. Help us do all that we do YOUR way – not to win your love, and not because we have to, but because we want to. Forgive us, bless us, heal us, and change us. In Jesus name, Amen