Have you ever done anything you regret? Oh come on, you know you have; we all have. Recently, in my memoir club we challenged each other to pick one of those regrets and write about it. I want to share that with you here.
“I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned back,
strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:32 (NIV)
When I think of what I regret most, my first inclination is to bring all the negative aspects of my past to surface and choose one that is the most memorable in the graveyard of dishonor. I ask myself, is it good to open old wounds and slice through the scar tissue of anguish and compunction of these unfortunate decisions? If I must walk through this byproduct of life to winnow the chaff from the wheat I will do so with a contrite heart as I have learned that to dwell on these things is to once again relive them in condemned silence. I cannot bring myself to agonize and grieve over the most indelible and disheartening of regrets so I will share just one small detail of being a sixteen year old boy. To bring this account to the forefront of today I will choose to make it an affirmation and remind myself as to the good that has come from it.
If you were to ask my family they would tell you that as a teenager I was never one to think things through before acting on impulse. Like any teenager I loved to spend money. When the opportunity to leave my first job as a chicken breader at KFC and be a stock boy at Madden Drug Store came along I jumped at it.
Two blocks from the store was a Pentecostal Bible College. Men dressed very nice and the ladies wore long dresses and piled their hair on top of their heads. I could not, for the life me, understand why a woman would wear no makeup and have such a heavy head of hair. I was about to find out.
One of the ladies came to work with me and we hit it off pretty well including joking around with each other. One day I asked about her makeup and, why she didn’t wear any. She told me that her faith did not allow her to wear it. So, I took the opportunity to ask about her hair. She informed me that it has never been cut or even trimmed and, yes, it did become quite heavy sometimes as well as hot in the summers, and that it, too, was a part of her faith.
I was puzzled but accepted her explanation and went about stocking. One day we were behind the counter moving some things around when she bent over. I had a pair of scissors in my hand and when I saw her long hair the impulse to cut a piece of it was irresistible, so I did.
She snapped around and I handed her a lock of hair with a smile. Her eyes filled with the mercury of naked despair. Fear blended with a deep, red flushed face and merged with the anguish in her eyes.
“What have you done?” She shouted.
The grin on my face turned to confused melancholy. I couldn’t answer as I really did not believe it was that big of a deal. It was only a joke. She ran to the back of the store in tears, talked with the pharmacist and left. Several days passed before we worked together again. This separation gave me time to reflect on what I had done. I determined that I was not only stupid, but inconsiderate. I put my funny antics ahead of her personal and spiritual welfare. I had really hurt someone deeply without consideration of her faith. I felt like a jerk! I was a jerk!
When she returned to work I walked up to her and apologized to her. You know what? She hugged my neck. Tears rolled down her face. She looked me in the eyes and smiled. “I have prayed for you Andy, and I forgive you.” (Luke 22:32)
WoW! There is a profound lesson here. It is found in Christ forgiveness of Peter. He prayed for Peter. He strengthened Peter through that prayer. He taught Peter a lesson through that prayer—through that forgiveness. He taught Peter to turn back to what he had been taught and move on from that mistake and not hold on to the regret. He taught Peter to encourage others and strengthen them, “…And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
You see, this young college student did the same thing. She prayed for me. She forgave me. She strengthened me. While I am human and remember such stories as this one, I have moved on—strengthened.
Though so long ago, this regret follows my every step and has become a thorn in my side. Each time I see a Pentecostal woman with no makeup and long hair, I am reminded of my apathy for someone who did not deserve my ignorance and careless actions. For even though our faith is different we serve the same loving God.
“There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord”
(1 Corinthians 12:5).
I could go on and on about regrets and what we as Christians should or could do to handle them. I want to leave this message with you however and just ask a simple question.
Can you move on?
God has made the way for you today if you will follow His path. Turn back and when you do strengthen your brothers!