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So, this year my calendar has been filled up with numerous milestone events..epic Disney trips, out of state weddings, graduations from college and high schools. Most of the graduations being my friends’ kids that I’ve known since even before their parents were married. My own daughter’s college Graduation is in the mix as well. Each event had me celebrating and melancholy at the same time. I also attended the funeral of a long time family friend of 90 years old. I lost it, when the priest actually read the book “I Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. If you’re not familiar with the story, it starts off with the mother singing a sweet poem to her newborn son in a rocking chair, then ends where he is a grown man rocking his elderly mother singing the same poem. I read this very same story to my kids and put the poem to music for them .
You would think that I would break into celebration as we are no longer paying two tuition bills, or hearing the big announcement that my daughter wants to move out at 22 and be completely independent. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parents, raise up independent individuals? Even though I know I’ll miss her terribly, she is going to good places with spiritual growth as a priority, decision-making skills intact and solid friendships to encourage her.
However, instead of celebrating my girls’ launch into adulthood, or my son being a senior in high school and still at home for a little while longer, I was sinking into despair. I knew I shouldn’t allow regrets to reign.
I agonized over how I should have done more to fill every gap. I should have prayed more, taught more about scripture and instructed more concerning finances. I convinced myself I should have stopped to listen more, been present more (instead of consumed with my to-do list) and empathized more.
Condemning inner voices whisper to us that we should have spent more time with our spouse or children; been a better wife, mom, daughter, or friend; taken a job to contribute to the family income (or stayed home with the children while they were small – moms just can’t win!); accepted the promotion; turned down the offer; said no to temptation. The list of our inner voices is endless!
We tell ourselves we could have tried harder, been more discerning, tuned into another’s needs, kept our cool, stayed calm, not fought back, learned better ways to handle a difficult situation, stayed away, kept our mouth shut, saved up instead of going into debt, or prayed more.
Then we begin to live in the fantasy world of if only. If only I had listened to my parents, if only I had finished my degree, if only I hadn’t married so young, and the list goes on. This is a waste of effort, time, and energy, because we can’t go back and change those things.
Because of the Cross, we don’t have to minimize our regret or deny our regret. We bring all of our regrets to the foot of the Cross. We release them because our God is in the redemption business, and at the foot of the Cross, regret can turn into repentance, and repentance can turn into redemption.
One silent morning, after several days of wrestling with regret, I spent time with God, telling Him about my sadness and worry that I had fallen short as a mom. One by one, I took my regrets to Jesus and left them in His care.
With time He brought me to a place of asking Him for forgiveness. Where there were places of sin, I repented. Turning away from those sins was a step that left me feeling washed clean. With others, He showed me how my imperfect parenting had still been enough. God was much gentler with me than I was with myself! For each regret, He promised that His work would succeed where mine had failed and that He would complete what I had left unfinished.
I walked away from my time with God that morning with exactly what He said in His Word – the hope of salvation and a release from regrets. I rested in the truth that His power floods in to fill our gaps.
Are you worried you haven’t parented well enough? God is still at work in our children’s lives, even after they become adults. Their story isn’t over, and God is big enough to finish the work He started in our hearts and homes.
Are you swamped with shame from your past? God offers salvation today for every circumstance in our rear-view mirror. That door didn’t close the moment we wandered. He is able to soothe our sorrows.
Are you fretting over lost opportunities? Our good God redeems our mistakes/misses and can fill our lives with second chances.
Psalm 116:3b-5a,6, “I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘LORD, save me!’ The LORD is gracious and righteous; The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.”