Shoulda Coulda Wouldas about last year got ya down? Try resetting your regrets. More below…
Stumbling across the threshold of a New Year, I was in a reflective mood. The events of the last 12 months had left me thoroughly dissatisfied & discouraged. Per my usual, I’d approached the 1st month eagerly tackling a list of goals. Unfortunately, I’d hit wall after wall until the overwhelming unhappiness of my personal and professional life confronted me and said, “We ain’t goin’ nowhere”. That morning, with my regular New Year traditions of a spic and span home and fresh laundry checked off my list, I was desperately clinging to the promise of the clean slate that January 1st would bring.
To celebrate, I’d invited a group of friends over for breakfast New Years Day. A colorful “Happy New Year!” sign hung in my living room to welcome them.
My guests were women of varied ages, life circumstances & stages. Together we discussed our past year and shared hopes for the future. It was a morning mostly full of laughter and the renewed hope of starting again. Listening to each of our stories however, a curious pattern emerged. Common themes of misplaced trust, missed opportunities and misinformed choices served as the backdrop for framing many of our new plans. All of us in some shape or form were wishing some aspect of our lives were better. I imagine we were no different than countless others who needed another chance to reset regrets.
Regret is a powerful emotion. Even mentioning the word conjures up a slew of memories we’d rather not recall. Naturally we know we can’t change anything that has already taken place. Still, our present peace is threatened with thoughts of “If only…” or “I wish…”. We lament poor choices and are sorry we couldn’t fix things; all the while despising the day we ever made the initial decision leading to our present pain. And this isn’t new. I don’t know one person who doesn’t wrestle with this feeling on some level. I’m not sure when it begins, but shame messages regarding our mistakes, mishaps and what we should’ve or could’ve done to prevent them seem to reach everyone at some point.
Once alone, I’d cleaned up after my guests and decided I’d let the sign linger. As the month went on it was my visual cue that this year really was going to be just what the sign said, a “Happy New Year”. Along the way, occasionally I’d get discouraged, but the symbol in my living room became a continual reminder of the hope I have in Him. Not only does He make all things new (Rev. 21:5), but every morning there is a new mercy for the day ahead (Lamentations 3:22-23). As the seasons changed the colorful letter cut outs still graced my wall. I had claimed my fresh start and wasn’t letting go! Happy New Year; Birth Year; Fiscal Year; & School Year were all justifications for keeping the sign up every day that year. I continued finding reasons to keep hoping, believing and trusting Him in every season and to my delight I discovered that every day, every moment even fresh starts abound.
At times I still wish I could have a do over, but when I do I’m learning to reset my perspective. Doing so allows me to reframe my story through the lens of God’s grace and redemption. If I hadn’t made those choices I wouldn’t know the wonder of His love. I wouldn’t be able to experience how He can take ANY circumstance and bring something good out of it. God really does restore, rescue and redeem. When He weaves the details of our story together (the good, bad and ugly) beautiful is indeed the word to describe it (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
And when negative memory lane triggers come to threaten the rejoicing over my forward march, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come, how good God is and I’m appreciative of His grace. I’ve changed, but more than that I’m CHANGING. I’m on a path of continual growth and progress where fresh starts abound every moment of every day. My regrets paved the road to repentance and for that I’m eternally grateful.