Recently, a friend said to me, “There are so many things in my life I wish I could go back and do differently.” I understand what she means as far as turning back the clock and not making the same mistakes again - but there is something to be said for being able to admit you made mistakes and learning from them. I am so grateful God forgets when He forgives. Sometimes it is hard to forgive ourselves for the wrongs of the past. And we certainly cannot always forget them, especially when our mistakes can have consequences which last forever.
Often, though, our mistakes don’t have eternal consequences; rather, they leave us with bad memories of our poor behavior and inability to always control our tongues and actions. Usually, the actions I regret most are from times when I reacted strongly in a negative way to a situation. Later, I wish I had been calm and more in control when faced with adverse situations. Other times I simply walked away when I should have stood up for what was right.
I left a church once when I was very poorly treated by the leadership. I was horribly betrayed and my trust shattered. Although I was already at an incredibly low point in my life - I wish I had handled that situation differently. I broke my connections with the church and just left. By doing that I think I gave up on God for a bit and didn’t give Him a chance to right the wrongs and bring healing and forgiveness among the people involved. I wish I had stayed longer and stood up to the deception and put more effort into working it out. I did make a weak attempt at reconciliation, but who knows what God could have done had I stood strong on my principles and allowed Him to work out the details? Maybe things wouldn’t have worked out differently, but I wish I had reacted differently.
Wishing that, however does me no good. And dwelling on it doesn’t change a thing. I have sought God and asked His forgiveness and guidance in the future. I know He forgave me and it is in the past, but forgetting and forgiving myself is so difficult and doesn’t help me. However, being able to admit I made mistakes, does help me. I know I would do things differently in similar circumstances in the future. There are other times in my life I have wished for a do-over.
My sister died suddenly several years ago. The weekend before Thanksgiving I was going to give her a call, but then decided to wait and call her on Thanksgiving Day. But she died the day before Thanksgiving, so I was too late and I have always regretted not making that phone call. For a while I let it make me very angry and disappointed with myself. I was plagued with thinking, “If only I had called maybe things would be different.” I refused to let myself believe they wouldn’t have turned out any differently and in some sense I felt like her death was my fault. I see how illogical that is now - but I did learn an important practice from the situation. Now, if I feel the urge to call someone I drop what I am doing and I call them. Nothing I have going on is more important than the people in my life.
There will always be times in my life when I disappoint myself and God with my actions or my tongue. I am so thankful He forgives me and is teaching me to forgive myself and to learn from my mistakes. So many things I would do differently. So many things I DO differently now. Life is always about growing and changing, no matter how old I get.