"No regrets!" I hear that a lot. And I get it, we like to be strong... or act strong... or just have others think we're strong. Nobody likes to appear weak. Nobody likes to lose, right? I mean, most of us will admit that we're not perfect and that we make mistakes, but then it gets followed up with, "but I have no regrets!"
Really? You make mistakes and you don't regret any of them?
What if we saw regret as something positive? Not a place to set up camp in some past mistake, but an opportunity for great growth.
One of my favorite stories that Jesus told is the one we call "the Parable of the Prodigal Son" (Luke 15). It's the story of mistakes, self-centered choices, and wasteful living. The twist in the story begins when the Prodigal "finally came to his senses..." and started for home.
In my life, regret has played a positive role. Regret led me to an awakening - a "coming to my senses." Like the Prodigal, I thought I was going the right way - doing what feels right at the time - and everyone else must be crazy. But then one day, my eyes open. They say, "No regrets," but you see the wreckage caused by your decisions and you're filled with regret. "Coming to your senses" is awakening to the reality of owning your junk. Not everything is your fault, but you're waking up to the truth that you're responsible for some of the wreckage.
Why do I see this as positive? Because in coming to my senses, I've realized I can come to a decision. I can make new choices. You can only learn from your mistakes when you regret making them. I can dust myself off and continue the journey forward. And I can do that with my head held high! Not because I don't have any regrets, but because I'm wide awake and I'm committing to better, less self-centered, choices. In the church world, the word for this is "repentance" (which doesn't mean "turn or burn!"). Repentance actually means to change your mind and return to where you belong.
Which is home. Regret leads to the awakening that you can come to your senses, and come to a decision that you will come home! Regret is the emotion that leads me to sing along with Chris Daughtry, "I'm going home, back to the place where I belong, and where your love has always been enough for me."
This is what I take away from Jesus' story of the prodigal son: know your regrets... get up, dust yourself off... continue the journey... shift lanes where needed. For me, Jesus' point is that you can always always ALWAYS come home to the Father (God) who loves you no matter what you did, and welcomes you home with open arms!