I can remember telling my best friend in high school that I wanted to be able to have “no regrets” on my tombstone as my epitaph… I was obviously young, naive, and full of very little life experience. But at that time in my life, I felt like I was doing pretty well. I was doing my best to be the “good little Christian girl.” I didn’t smoke, or drink, or go to parties… To be completely honest, I had never been invited to a party or even offered a cigarette. (I like to think it was because of my reputation, rather than not being liked.) Honestly, I had never even been tempted to do any of those things… And I was very critical of others that did.
Oh, the pride I could not see in my own heart…
Needless to say, it wasn’t before long that my hopes of an honest epitaph of “no regrets” went, regrettably, down the drain. By the time I turned 25, I had acquired many regrets. Now I’m 45, and I find there are more things that I wish I’d done differently in my past than things that I think I’ve done right.
But, I have to say if it were not for these regrets, I would still be trapped in my pride, unaware of the extravagant grace that has been extended to me. I’m convinced that some of the things I regret the most might have actually changed the course of my life for the better. We’re taught that sin is never God’s will for us, because it isn’t. But, I know I would still be so prideful if it were not for my sins. God used the bad decisions that I made, even though they weren’t His will, to shape my life for the better. I have learned that God’s will is always that we glorify him. I am ashamed of my sins. But, I am thankful that God has redeemed them, and that they have made me much more understanding and forgiving of others. For that, He gets all the glory. So, in that respect, I think I can still say that I have no regrets. Not because of anything good I have done, but because of what Jesus has done in me, in spite of the wrong I’ve done.
I often wonder how different my life would be if I hadn’t been so proud and if I hadn’t had so many humbling failures. Believe me, I can “coulda, shoulda, woulda” a scenario to death, and the enemy loves it when I do! I know we all have regrets…things we know we “coulda” done, choices we “shoulda” made, and things “woulda” turned out differently…even the seemingly small things that haunt our memories. Like the knee-jerk insult that flew out of our mouth that we wish we could take back…or that text we wish we had never sent… that phone call, visit, or good deed we intended to do so many times but kept putting off, and now it’s too late. But instead of spending our precious time thinking about all the “coulda, shoulda, woulda” scenarios, we should learn from those experiences and make the most of every opportunity we are given to good deeds, make the best choices, and be the best version of ourselves from this point forward. (Ephesians 5:15-17) Not as an effort to make up for the bad and wrong things we’ve done, but in gratitude for the grace and new life we’ve been given…Not dwelling on the past, but pressing on with the prize in mind (Philippians 3:12-14)…Not only for what awaits us after this life, but also for the peace of mind in the here and now of no regrets.
I’ve had a few detours in my life, but in many ways, I can say I’m thankful for the journey and experiences that have brought me here…to a place of grace and peace, not without consequences, but also not without love and acceptance. So when the enemy comes accusing and reminding me of all the things I “coulda, shoulda, woulda” done in my life, I remind him of what Jesus did for me, and he doesn’t stand a chance!
The song “Dear Younger Me” by Mercy Me pretty much sums all of this up and reminds me that I can still say that I have no regrets…but only because of Jesus. It is well worth the time taken to listen to it.
Shellie O’Quinn, Choir and College Director