Living With Regret?

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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.

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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!

Blessings!

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28 thoughts on “Living With Regret?

  1. What an incredible post (how did you doubt it, Dear Friend?)!!!! What a wonderful lesson to be taught at such a young age about prayer and forgiveness. They truly do walk hand and hand. I loved this, Andy. Thank you for sharing. I know I will think about this many times in the future.

    • I am glad you were blessed by this my Lil’ Sis! Thanks for for your continued support on my blog. You are such a blessing to me in so many ways and I appreciate that you are always faithful with your encouragement. Blessing to you sweet friend!

  2. I’m not sure I can tell this story briefly, but I’ll try. Therapy and prayer helped me reach a place where I was able to genuinely forgive my mother for how she had physically abused me as a child, (and I also asked her forgiveness for how I had rejected her for many years). Years later, when I began caring for my ailing mother during the last six years of her life, my siblings could not understand how we had reached a place of healing, and they constantly assaulted me with vile words. They were very angry, and thought I was ridiculously stupid for being willing to help someone who had caused me such harm. Even though I tried to explain that forgiveness goes both ways, and that it can genuinely help heal old wounds, they were just not in a place to accept this as truth. I remember being overwhelmed by their anger and rejection, and how much pain it caused me to have to go through this experience without their aid and support (which did eventually come later). I guess what I’m trying to say is that forgiveness doesn’t end with the act of forgiveness, but rather, it continues on in how we choose to live our lives. And sometimes, that means defending our ability to forgive.

    Even today, five years after the death of my mother, some of my siblings still harbor ill feelings towards me for having cared for our mother. I’ve eventually had to accept that I can only respond in the way that feels appropriate for me, and that I have to also respect their own inability to forgive. I pray for them to find their own peace, and can only hope that forgiveness becomes real to them.

    • BTW, my biggest regret in relation to this story is how poorly I treated my mother during the years that I was still carrying much anger and pain in my heart. No mother should be dealt that much heartache. Thankfully, she was able to find forgiveness in her heart, and we were able to enjoy many years of sharing love for one another before she passed.

  3. Andy: Your admission of a youthful mistake really hit home with me. Let me explain: About 4 years ago, I married an Apostolic man. This is the Latin form of Pentecostal. I too, had long heavy, hot hair. It was both a gift and a burden. I understand exactly how the woman in your story felt about her hair, and the act of it being cut. I am so glad you experienced the grace of the Lord through this young woman. I have since left that “religion”, but carry some of the wonderful things I learned in my heart and walk with Jesus.

    My own dark sin: When I was in my late teens I was living in the belly of sin. I hurt someone and it still haunts me today. Though I have been cleansed of this sin, I am reminded of the hurt I willingly inflicted, and I am awash with shame. I was angry at a roommate of mine, and acted on my anger with a vengeance I didn’t even realize I had. One evening, when she was very drunk, we went to a tattoo shop and we both got tattoo’s. I picked out a small one for me, and she was so inebriated, she asked me to choose hers. Big Mistake on her part. I picked out a really ugly rodent like animal in black, and had it tattooed on her right upper chest. Now, my own tattoo was very small, and in a place no one but myself would see..hers was about as big as a fried egg-pretty large and very black and ugly..and she would be seeing it everyday for the rest of her life. Needless to say, after it was done, I moved out that night, and left the city. I was mostly scared and had a slight bit regretful, and I knew she would be livid at me.
    Fast forward 20 years: I saw her for the first time since I did my ugly sin, and I was not in a position to introduce myself, and repent to her. At the time, I was training at a place she worked, and she was on a break with a co-worker. There was honestly not an opportunity to speak to her, much less tell her how sorry I was/am about the sin I did to her. I have thought about this particular sin many times. I have grieved at how dark and rotted my heart was. But, now, living in the light, I know I am forgiven, and I am hopeful the Lord will present an opportunity for me to repent to this woman. He has been faithful in so many ways, and I look forward to glorifying the Lord by repenting for my sin.

    • Oh Dear Nicolette. Most of us carry these memories. They are painful for us only when enlightened by the Light of God’s love. He he allows us to carry these thorns in our side, I believe, to remind our hearts that hurting others is painful to us as well. While Paul did not reveal the thorn in his side he did ask God to remove it. I believe his thorn was the memory of all he had persecuted, hurt and even killed. It hung over his head like a guillotine of honed grief. Yet we learn from Paul and each other that we are human. We are creatures made in God’s loving image and we can forgive others as well as to ask others for their forgiveness. Only when we recognize our sin against another are we able to give it to God and He, in his perfect timing, will bring a healing balm to you heart. Thank you for opening this wounded spirit and sharing with this family. I will, as I am sure others who live here, will be praying for you. God bless you. Keep your eyes on the goal!

  4. What a beautifully well written and powerful story Andy, thank you so much for sharing it with us. You were young and we all do things without thinking (young or not sometimes!) but the beauty of this story is that the young lady forgave you, you realised what you had done and the lessons learned from this incident have carried you throughout your life.
    So important that even though we don’t agree with another’s faith, opinion, or way of life we can still love and pray for one another and so forgive and move on with cleansed, renewed and healed hearts. Then, as the Word says in the scripture you shared, we can indeed turn back and strengthen our brothers and our sisters! Bless you my dear friend, have a wonderful day – Sherri 🙂

  5. Beautifully written. I too have had many regrets such as weigh a ton or more. I walked with them for many years until I finally found The Cross where I was able to leave my burden. The regrets have now become a story – a great tale about the making of a humble and forgiving soul. The story has just begun, though, and is not even close to being finished yet.

  6. you always have such great stories, Andy. This is a wonderful reminder of forgiveness and that if we take the Lord at His word, we should be able to move on. Forgiving ourselves is sometimes a roadblock for that, I think.

  7. Andy if I decided to kill your dog because my religion said it was a righteous thing to do, would you look the other way or say OK if you must, go ahead. There is one God and when we are in Unity with Him, we are in Unity with each other because we have the mind of Christ we agree on what is important, not to us but to God.

    God does not tell a woman not to wear make-up or jewelry but we are not to Trust in these things for our beauty, it must be shown to be within us by her righteous living and Loving deeds, a woman is not to shave her head as prostitutes use to do but is to show by her long hair and God never said it had to be to her waist, that she accepts being under the Authority and Leadership of her husband. If a woman is not married, is a widow, has been abandoned by her husband, than she is under God’s Authority.

    If I was alive when Paul was, he could never have claimed to be the worst of sinners but until we all realize we are we have not come to heart repentance , when we break one Commandment, not meaning man made rules and regulations, we have broken them all because they are all about Love and we are to always Love God and others.

    Today we see Paganism becoming very strong in our Countries this is because even Churches they are accepting what God tells us is wrong. Yes we are to Love and accept everyone but we do not have to agree and accept the wrong they do, even if claiming they are doing it for their god, like suicide bombers or those in the Church who forbid men and woman to marry, if they want to serve God, this is not one of God’s Commandments, being Celebrant was to be chosen willingly by those who wanted to serve God with all their time, being married means we have other time commitments,l but even so God must be the motivation in everything we do.

    As for feeling guilty for the wrong we have done in the past and have been forgiven of after our heart repentance, God tells us He has removed our sins as far as the east is to the west and chooses to remember them no more, no we are not to be Happy Clappy about them but we are to forgive ourselves too. Yes Satan will keep throwing it at us but we make every thought captive to Christ, in Him we have no shame.

    Our greatest sin was OUR sin, which put Jesus on the cross and caused Him untold suffering and we also do not take lightly breaking God’s guidelines but these are not about man’s rules and regulations etc or our weaknesses and shortcomings, and their not about what we did in our immaturity without thought of malaise but they are doing and agreeing with what God calls evil and rejecting what He calls good.

    Thanks Andy and may you continue to be blessed as you walk in Unity with God and His Redeemed Children.

    Christian Love in Christ Jesus – Anne.

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