I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days about the past. It’s interesting to notice the memories that stick out more than others, and how some things, if we don’t think about them long enough, we are bound to never remember them again. However, there are those instances that repeatedly come back to mind, triggered by a car alarm or a certain phrase said by a complete stranger. They are the secret pain and past regrets that seem to grip us and never let go.
I have realized that there are several things that I have held onto and they have held onto me, the “secrets and regrets” of my past. I seem stuck in the same mentality as I was back then and it frustrates me. There are past friendships and relationships that have gone sour, stupid decisions that I have made, and things out of my control that haunt me and have taught me to fear. I constantly respond to people around me with these instances in mind, afraid to repeat the mistakes of my past. However, all that I am doing is reacting from my woundedness and creating a whole new slew of secrets and regrets for tomorrow.
I have often wondered how circumstances that I have given to God can still bother me daily. Sometimes it seems like there was no benefit of giving it to Him at all. The struggle continues on and on, like a broken record or a scratched CD. I am stuck, disillusioned, and unhappy. It took someone else bringing to my attention the true source of this internal battle: I have not forgiven myself for the things that have taken place.
You see, in two broken friendships in particular, I had done everything in my power to make things right. I had taken on the responsibility for all that had happened and as a result, I inherited all the guilt as well. I bore the burden and shame for the actions done, though I was only half the relationship. I had forgiven them even though the pain continued, but I had not laid down the burden that I had been carrying ever since.
There is also a person that I allowed into my life for quite some time that all reason, wisdom, and intuition told me to close that door and walk the other direction. I chose to ignore the voices I should have listened to, tired of being alone and desperately wanting someone to listen. It was grace that protected me from a lot of “could-have-beens” as I chose to walk a path I knew better than to walk. Talk about a regret that was my own doing. How do you justify something like that?
In high school, I had a friend that committed suicide. Not long before this happened, she and I were alone in our Algebra classroom. All the other students had left and for some reason, we were the only ones there. I distinctly remember the voice of God telling me to stay and talk to her, but I was in a hurry and going somewhere as always. I stopped at the door, looked back at her, and as our eyes met, I continued out the door. For years, I blamed myself for her death, knowing that I had willing disobeyed the voice of God calling me to take a priceless opportunity to be a friend. Even after I reconciled in my mind that suicide was her decision, not mine, and sought forgiveness from God, I lived my life by the philosophy of “never again.” Anyone that came into my life that was broken became my mission of salvation. When things did not always turn out for the better in these instances, I took on additional responsibility and guilt. I tried my hand at being “savior of the world” and found that it’s a good thing that God sent Jesus for this purpose and not me, because He was a lot more successful at the job.
Also in high school, I dated a guy for a year and a half. He always was and will be an incredible guy, and it was an honor to be a part of his life. When we started dating, he went to church but the idea of a personal relationship with God was something new to him. We spent hours and days and weeks debating theology and the deep mysteries of life and one day I received a phone call from him saying that he had asked Jesus (for lack of a better phrase) into his heart. I was so excited and I went into full-blown “discipleship mode.” I bought workbooks that went through the whole “understanding your decision” process, and I can only imagine what he was thinking through the whole thing. When the time came that our relationship ended, it was not long before I received a very different kind of phone call. He had decided that this whole “Jesus thing” was not for him, and the conversations that we have had about it since usually contain the phrase “worse decision of my life” when referring to the few months he spent “exploring Christianity.” It is one thing to have someone that you deeply care about never accept your beliefs. It is another thing when they reject them completely; to celebrate a victory then face the attitude of disgust is hard to bear. You know the drill, I blamed myself. Did I misrepresent Christ to him? Was his whole idea of who God is wrapped around who he understood me to be? Had I become the savior rather than someone else who had been saved by grace? I could probably answer “maybe” to all these questions, but as I have struggled to deal the best way with all of these situations, I have begun to realize the importance of things such as truth, free will, and grace.
Pillar has a song called “Secrets and Regrets” and the chorus begins, “Your secrets and regrets are keeping you from going very far, and you can’t let all this get you down and keep you living in the dark.” I have learned that it is one thing to learn from our mistakes; it is another to let them control our decisions, relationships, and future. Once we have laid our sin at the foot of the cross and found the forgiveness of Christ, we can leave it there. Just as others have the free will to make the decision to be bitter, to give in to the pain, and walk away from God, we have the ability to choose to become people that operate from a different perspective. If God’s grace is enough for everyone else, then surely it is enough for us. We can live in victory.
The truth is that God has a passionate love for all of us, and He does not taunt us with the memories of the past. What He has forgiven, He has chosen to send them as the Bible says, “as far as the east is from the west.” His grace picks us up and says, “See how I make all things new!” The old has gone, the new has come. It is the enemy that reminds us of the times that we have failed and listening to his voice teaches us to hesitate and shrink back at obeying the voice of God. God’s truth tells us that we are His “masterpiece” and by the grace of God, what has been broken can be restored in Him.
Until this point, I have juggled the voice of God and the voice of the enemy. I heard God’s truth, but I also saw how much He had to save. My fear of repeating past mistakes put me in a cycle of “better at some things, worse at others.” I was living as a result of my experiences, rather than as a reflection of God’s grace.
The truth is, we all do stupid things. When Jesus repeatedly referred to us as sheep, it was not meant as an insult. He was simply stating things as they are. However, as the Good Shepherd, Jesus laid down His life for us, His sheep, and His grace is sufficient for all of us, regardless of the secrets and regrets we face every day. His love picks us up and makes us new.
From this day on, I refuse to live my life governed by my decisions and circumstances of the past. I choose to listen to the voice of truth that says it is grace that opens the door for me to come to God with confidence and leave all that was broken at His feet. I have no idea how the circumstances will turn out or if they will ever be resolved, but they are now in the hands of the real Savior of the world. I want to live my life as a true reflection of my God, where His love flows freely through me and is not filtered through the pains of my yesterdays. I want to sing the song that the angels only long to sing:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see
My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood, His mercy rains
Unending love, amazing grace.