The Mother of All Regrets

Saturday night, I watched a quiet movie called Last Chance Harvey. Harvey is a man facing late-life career failure as he attends the wedding of his only daughter who has asked her step-father to walk her down the aisle. In the airport, he meets Kate, mid-life, single, damaged by her own father’s abandonment and facing remorse about an abortion in her college years and what she could have done with her life. The theme of the movie is dealing with regret and deciding what we do with our lives NOW.

It turned out to be an apt movie to have watched the night before Mother’s Day.

Holidays with my extended family are never as simple as holidays appear in the imaginary world of advertising. There’s always some drama that plays out spurred on by current stresses and fueled by past regrets.

Mother’s Day was no different except that after years of prayer and persistent witnessing, there were more players on the sane team – the team that accepts that while we all have sinned, we’ve all failed, we’ve all done damage – our only hope is to move forward in Christ. Upon reflection, this is actually a huge difference that should be underscored. The kingdom advances in my family and I see the hand of God at His transforming work.

But not everyone has yielded to the power of God so there continue to be dramas as the dragon of the past breathes fire on the present.

Attending a breakfast service at my church, I watched other mothers’ dramas play out. There was a single mom, exhausted from working her second job – a third-shift on week-ends – whose teen-agers barely acknowledged her special day. There were several waiting moms, saving empty seats and anxiously eyeing the door, hoping that their adult children would come to church on this day – all the gift they really desired.

Scattered throughout were women whose moms had failed them – abandoned families or closed their eyes to abuse or coped with their own sad lives through drink or drugs – struggling to be different for their own children, vowing to end the cycle. And there were the mothers whose children have died and who no longer stare at the door with any expectation at all. This is the holiday reality for many.

It’s not just Mother’s Day – really any holiday carries with it a natural opportunity for reflection and the possibility of drowning in regret. The older I get, the more I understand how regret can weigh on a soul. When we’re young, we think there is always time to make right what we have screwed up. The older we get, the more we realize this isn’t true. Hollywood’s answer in Last Chance Harvey was romantic love. The real answer is the forgiving power of God.

The truth is, we all sink our own lifeboats and then, in an effort to stay afloat, we drag under those around us who themselves are just trying to tread water and not drown in the dark waters of their own mistakes. Regrets float like seaweed in the salty waves and wrap themselves around our hopes, tangling us up in our past so we cannot imagine a future on dry land.

But rescue teams search the treacherous waters offering hope to those dragged under by the weight of regret. These teams are comprised of those who have been rescued themselves from the same waters and found safety and refuge in Christ. They have flung their regrets overboard back into the raging waters knowing that while they cannot change their pasts, their futures belong to God.

God takes our pasts and recreates them, transforms them, uses them as compost for the flowering of our futures with Him. Jesus read from the following passage to proclaim the advent of His ministry:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Isaiah 61: 1-4

May God grant us mothers the grace and strength to rebuild the ancient ruins of our family histories and restore lives long devastated, to renew the ruined relationships with Christ devastated for generations. May we trust Him to have the last word on all our regrets.

The only real regret should come from refusing to climb into the lifeboat and remaining adrift hopelessly seeking the shore on our own. Jesus truly is our Last Chance.

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  1. Great post. I appreciate every word.