I'd been telling myself for ages that I needed to do something about the bootlaces. They were too long. But I only wear boots when I work at a local smelter, once a fortnight, and each time I take them off, I shove the laces back inside the boots and forget about them—until the next time. I have lots of lace left over after crisscrossing them all the way up the boot, so I tie big bows. It was the bows that did it.
This day, I loaded up with all the bits I was carrying in to work: the bag of lemons for a friend, my bag of work stuff, and, of course, my handbag. As I nudged the car door shut, the slap of one of the laces against the other boot reminded me that I should at least tie a double bow—next time.
The podcast I listened to in the car was a really good one, and I was thinking about it as I made my way to the check-in shelter. It happened so fast: the tug as I attempted to step forward with my right foot, the flash of words across my mind, I'm going to fall, the slow roll of lemons across the tarmac, the jolt of pain in my left hand, and the sting of gravel as it tore my skin.
I'm grateful I didn't break any bones, and grateful no one was around to see my embarrassing trip! Here's my take on the whole thing: I regret not shortening the laces when I first bought the boots. If I had, I wouldn't have tripped. I would have saved myself some pain. I was thinking about that concept in the context of how we live our lives.
In A Grief Revealed, I talk about regret and mention the quote, “I lived with crushing regrets because I was never brave enough to claim what I wanted.” Regret shows up often in our lives, but we don't have to live with it. There is always an alternative, an option, but we have to be intentional in choosing the option. It can save us from tripping and falling and the pain that is inevitable when we do.
As nurses and followers of Jesus, regret might be rare or maybe not so rare. Should I have applied for that new position in my workplace? Did I miss a chance to express my faith when that colleague asked so many questions? What would my path have been like if I’d gone back to school?
God doesn’t berate or penalize us for decisions that we make or fail to make. However, consequences—like tripping on overlong bootlaces—still may need to be faced.
The Apostle Paul suggests that we not keep looking back and feeling guilty or self-condemning about past decisions. Here’s his worthy advice:
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-13, ESV)
God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). He doesn’t accuse; instead, he waits while we wash the gravel out of our wounds and deal with dangling laces. Our God wants us to release regret and reach instead for his joy and grace.
Australian Karen Mace is a former nurse and missionary in South America; she currently teaches expressive writing workshops on grief and journaling, born out of her own grief experiences. Her newest book is A Grief Revealed.