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Greater Than All My Regrets
During the last few weeks at school, I have been teaching the classic Christmas Carol to my sophomore English students. Although most of them still hate writing, it always presents a unique opportunity to talk about regret, opportunity, and change.
A Christmas Carol Example
“In A Christmas Carol, Stave 1, Jacob Marley pens these words: “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?” Describe this quote and why Marley says it. Do you have any regrets in life? If so, what are they, and why do you have them?”
That is the journal I use to start and strike up a cunning conversation in my class. And while many students take the easy way out and write down simplistic details like, “I regret trying sardines,” or “I regret cheating on a test,” many others write down truly heavy weights they feel forced to carry.
“I regret anxiety.”
“I regret not talking to my aunt before she died.”
“I regret holding a grudge.”
“I regret saying unkind words.”
“I regret not standing up for someone when they needed it most.”
“I regret cutting myself.”
“I regret my eating disorder.”
“I regret contemplating suicide.”
What about you? Are you wearing heavy chains?
Made of silver or bronze?
Heavy in weight and stature?
Bound to your ankles and feet like shackles in a prison cell?
The Weight of Chains
If we are honest with ourselves, I am sure that we all have things we regret in this life.
Indecisions were unmade.
Choices acted upon.
Choices we wish would’ve never existed.
And if we allow them to, these regrets will burden us.
They preoccupy our minds and every inch of our thoughts.
But we don’t have to remain that way.
The Reality of Hope
As a Christian working in a public school setting, I cannot tell you how difficult it is to read and see regrets like these without having the explicit ability to tell them, “but I serve a God who is greater than all of these regrets.” I cannot tell you the pain I feel when the look in their eyes is filled with so much turmoil and anguish. Like their mistakes are permanent, and there is no hope.
But while I may not be able to blatantly tell them, “Jesus is the answer,” I can do my best to live a life of Christ that is so much like Him, they can’t but help see it through me.
They can see hope.
They can see forgiveness.
They can see there is so much more to them than the regrets and mistakes they’ve made.
On the second day of this unit, we talk about snowflakes. Which, I know, in and of itself, sounds super weird. However, snowflakes were the best representation I could think of to represent purity, and a slate made new.
In essence, it is Christ who takes our regrets and gives us a new opportunity to live. A better way. But for this class, I try to show that no one is ever too far gone.
Do you regret cheating? Then make a change and don’t cheat again.
Do you regret not spending time with a family member who passed away? Then learn from this, and spend time with others before it is too late.
Do you regret self-harm? Know that you do not have to continue down that downtrodden path of self-destruction.
And while I may not get to explicitly state it in my English class, I hope that every single student knows there is someone greater than every mistake you ever have, had, or ever will make, and His name is Jesus.
Personally, I regret many things in this life.
I regret cheating on tests in school.
I regret lying to my parents when I was knee-deep in an eating disorder and needed help.
I regret keeping secrets that really only hurt me.
I regret keeping God’s light to myself when I should’ve been bold enough to share it.
I regret every careless word I’ve ever said to my mom.
I regret caring more about perfection than learning to live.
I regret having idols and bowing to them.
I regret many regrets that often weigh down my life.
But the difference between those who have Christ and those who don’t is the measure of regret.
The Measure of Regret
For those of us who are saved by Jesus, we can rejoice that He not only takes away every single regret, but He gives us a fresh, white, new, clean, and pure slate. When He looks at us, He doesn’t only see us without regret, but He looks beyond and within. We were His handiwork, breathed, crafted, and created in Christ Jesus’ glorious wonders, and we are His. He sees all we were meant to become, and all we someday will be.
For those who are not saved by Jesus, sure they can try to achieve their own freedom from regret, but it will not last. They can choose to not sin, cut, or remark unkind words to a friend, but without the inner guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, their works will ultimately be fruitless.
While not all regrets are born from sin, 2 Corinthians 7:10 reminds us, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10, New International Version).
The Measure of Eternal Life
The free gift of Jesus’ blood and sacrifice for each of us brings life. It is freeing, freedom, and rejoicing that we do not have to make the same mistakes or choices we made before. In Christ, we are new creations. The old things have passed, and the new has come. And we may still struggle with those things, but the Spirit within us helps us to change.
At the end of our lives, I truly believe that God does not wish for us to live a life of regret. He wishes for us to acknowledge that we’ve been washed by the blood, and are saved by the only one who can truly transform our bodies, minds, and souls.
Jesus desires us to live with the mantra from 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, New International Version).
Jesus desires those of us stuck in old patterns and habits to be renewed by His grace, mercy, and never-ending forgiveness: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 3:19, New International Version).
Jesus desires us to know that beyond every mistake, error, sin, flaw, or fault we’ve ever committed, with Him, there is a great reason for hope. And what better time to internalize this message than when hope and peace Himself were born?
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past, he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future, he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:1-2, New International Version).