No Regrets: Living a Life Free from the Burden of the Past

Easier said than done, that is…. A life without regret…

I decided yesterday that I would write this blog, to encourage you to live a life of no regret. I put every effort into living life this way, because regret steals the present and the future, based on the past. And it accomplishes nothing positive in the process.

Having decided I would blog about it, guess what I did at 4:20am? I woke up, not feeling the best, and immediately my mind wandered to days gone by. It had nothing to do with my journey of healing from the past. It wasn’t about the things I should have said and done, before Dad passed away. It was about my parenting. My imperfections. My failings. Immediately regret threatened…

I started thinking about my children and the struggles they will face because of choices I made that were not in their best interest. Not intentionally, but it happened. Still does. I thought about ways I parented, especially in the early years, that did not build them up, encourage them and give them confidence.

In the pit of my stomach a knot formed. My head hurt just a little more. Regret took root and I started to feel anxious, almost nauseous. There are things I would have done differently, if I had known then, what I know now. But I didn’t. I was hurting. Broken.

In the wee hours of the morning, I prayed (again) for my children. I prayed that God would redeem, give them favour and blessing. I didn’t say “I’m sorry”, one more time. I’ve said that. God has forgiven me. My children have forgiven me. But there are moments when fear lingers. Regret threatens. I don’t want the curse of generations past, of my own sins, to hold them back from His purposes.

I prayed until I fell asleep.

My intention, when I planned this blog, was to write it based on my relationship with my father. To write about not letting regret steal the good that was there, because of what was not perfect. That the kind words spoken, would not be crowded out by the words not spoken, or the unkind ones that were never dealt with.

Even after my father’s death I had much healing to go through, because ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t erase every psychological scar. It can’t. Jesus makes us whole in an instant, but healing is a process. But, in spite of the broken places in my heart, in spite of the things that were not said or done, things that would have helped with healing, I never want to overlook God’s goodness. I don’t want to give regret that kind of power.

That was going to be my primary focus. Instead, having awakened last night to regret over my own sins, failures and shortcomings, I realize that it is a multi-faceted thing, to overcome regret. It is about releasing generations past, accepting forgiveness for oneself, and extending a blessing on the generations to come.

I must trust God with my children, and believe that, if He could heal me from the devastating effect my parents had on my life, He is big enough to do the same for my children. I must trust Him to forgive me, and redeem in the my children those areas where I failed them. I need to take ownership–and I try always to do that–and not make excuses. When I have done that, I need to release it, the same way I release my parents. I need to extend forgiveness, and accept forgiveness.

So, if you are a parent, I encourage you to take ownership for failing your children. I encourage you to say, “I’m sorry.” Be humble in that relationship, for the sake of the future of your children. Say the things that you wish your parents had said. Not to be better than they were, but to be the best that you can be. And to give your children the best you have to offer.

Accept forgiveness, whether your children extend it or not. And release them. If they need space to struggle through your mistakes, give them that space. Don’t demand that they release you. But release yourself from the grip of guilt. You can’t make them get over it, or get through it. That is God’s business. The best gift you can give them is showing them how to move on without wallowing in your sins.

And if your dad is still living, and you’ve always wanted to talk about ‘life stuff’, the things that drive you crazy, the things you adore… the things you missed and the things that hurt you… Why not call him up for coffee? Tell him what you wish you had the courage to say… things like ‘I love you, Dad’…  ‘I’m sorry, Dad’, and ‘I forgive you’, and “All I ever wanted, Dad, was for you to be proud of me’. Or write him a note, or a letter.

And if you need support in that process, find a mentor, pastor or friend to help you. When the time comes to say good-bye, you won’t regret the awkward moments you created. You’ll regret the ones you missed because of fear, or pride.

And if your dad is gone, and you didn’t get it said, let it go. Don’t live your life in regret. Invest your heart in the next generation, and in your sphere of influence, whether that’s your kids, maybe neices and nephews, or someone you mentor.

Live a life of no regrets, not because you are perfect, but because you are forgiven. Embrace a life of freedom, through Jesus. Remember, He redeems all things.

Just as I finished writing this blog, my friend Steve Stutzman, of Strait Paths, shared the song “Your Hands”, by JJ Heller, on my Facebook wall. It fits so perfectly to what I’ve been writing about, I thought I’d share it with you.

This is for you, who still long for reconciliation with your dad, for you who wait patiently for a son or daughter to come home. It is for you, if you feel you have sinned beyond forgiveness. You are held in your Heavenly Daddy’s Hands.

© Trudy Metzger

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