The other day my son Nate said, and I quote, “The pain of regret is probably one of the worst pains in the world.” He’s eight.
Now he didn’t say this because he has experienced the pain of regret. He only has an inkling of what it even means, but he’s a good listener and he has great recall. He was merely parroting what my husband shared with me and our boys from his Bible study. They are studying Hebrews, and were on chapter twelve — the part that talks about running the race with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith. Jerry Leachman, his leader, shared that we can often choose between the pain of preparation and the pain of regret. There is pain in working hard at anything, whether it be sports or our walk with Jesus. We must persevere and face the pain of preparation, because the pain of regret is, as my son said, “probably one of the worst pains in the world.”
I’ve been pondering this, marveling about how simple it is. Choosing between the pain of preparation and the pain of regret. It’s simple, but profound and nearly universal in its application. Everyday we can choose the pain of preparation, or suffer the pain of regret. And what has hit me in just the last few days, is how you can actually have both. You can have the pain of preparation AND the pain of regret. In fact, I’m pretty skilled at this.
For example, I’ve been going to the gym and working hard to get in shape. My big impetus was turning 40 and I received a gym membership for Christmas. But this has been a tremendous shock. Because if there is a syndrome that is the exact opposite of anorexia, I have it. Perhaps it’s just an extension of my optimistic, glass invariably half full spirit, but whatever it is, I was blissfully ignorant about how out of shape I really am. I have long looked in the mirror and seen someone who wasn’t at an ideal weight, but was not that far off. Well! The gym mirrors are brutally honest, and worse yet they are everywhere! The horror of what jiggles. The blow of staring at my middle for a full hour while jumping helplessly around trying desperately to keep up with women who are 10, 20 and even 30 years older than me. The reality has begun to set it.
But I’ve actually begun to embrace the pain of preparation. I’ve been going to the gym multiple times each week, some mornings I leave the house before six a.m. and I am NOT a morning person.
But what’s sad is that I also have the pain of regret. Because I sabotage my own well-being, my own precious little progress by eating like a glutton. On Super Bowl Sunday I made the mistake of eating and eating and eating, and then eating some more. I was so full I felt sick, depressed even, so I had a few more cookies. I had endured the pain of preparation (running on the treadmill that morning) AND suffered the pain of regret.
Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s almost like our sin nature is a propensity to self-destruct, and sometimes it sabotages more than just a resolution to get in shape.
I have a friend who is suffering terribly from regret. I haven’t even spoken with her yet, but her emails reveal an agonizing sadness. Nate is right: regret is one of the worst pains in the world.
So how can we avoid this pain? Well, more preparation, right? More prayer, more contemplation of God’s truth, more submission to His plan for us, more fellowship within the body of believers, especially with those who will hold us accountable. We need to be more aware of our own pride – more willing to admit whether it’s another cookie or a Facebook friend – when we just can’t handle the temptation. We need to be more willing to set firm barriers and take that out that the Lord is always faithful to supply. And we need to obey whether our hearts are in the obedience or not. Certainly all of these things are good things.
But I think we also need to be honest about our stubborn and selective little ears. One of my favorite verses from my Bible study this year is Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.” I want to walk in the way. I want to hear His voice and heed it. I want my life to reflect the fact that He is living in me. Plus, I want to avoid one of the worst pains in the world, don’t you?