Wednesday, 25 September 2013

No regrets

What does one do with regret? Most of us have the experience of having made some huge mistakes during our lives. The longer we live the more more likely it is that we do. These feel like mistakes that set us on a wrong track, huge decisions or reactions we would undo if we could. But we forget, perhaps, all the factors that played into those decisions at the time. Without knowing the outcome, how could we – the people we were then, with what we knew, in those circumstances – have done better? Even if we feel we could and should have, a Christian might take consolation from the following thought. We are not here to lead perfect lives, to make our lives like a work of art. We are God's work of art (Eph. 2:10). We are here to be shaped, changed, transformed; and we are shaped very largely by our mistakes. The things that have gone horribly wrong, the things we have done
horribly wrong – including, worst of all, the damage we have done to others – perhaps cannot be undone in the way we would like. But they have changed us from being the people who made those mistakes. There is a danger they have made us bitter, or filled us with self-hatred, but that is where the mistake really lies, and that can be undone.

We have to accept the past as over, and as a gift. Right now God is giving us our past, as it is, with all the mistakes we have made, mistakes that he permitted us to make, and saying, "Now go from here." He is with us in the here and now, and he can bring out of this situation a greater good than we can imagine. He wants us to arrive at heaven's gate expanded and with the maximum capacity to receive what he wants to give us: the knowledge and the love that he has to share with us. It is only in that way that he can make everything all right. It is only that final gift that heals the past completely; not by changing what happened but by making it part of an experience that has changed us, in the end for the better. The experience of misery, regret, resentment, fear, anger, hatred, and despair that we go through afterwards all form part of the furnace from which we finally emerge. That is what the sacrament of Confession is for. That furnace is also the Cross; it is part of what he went through on our behalf – the regrets of Peter, of Judas, and of all the sinners who crawl their way back, painfully, to the foot of that Cross, even at the last possible moment, to see the light shining even more brightly in the darkness.

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