Jackson gently cried himself to sleep tonight. I laid with him, rubbed his back and comforted him as best as I could. But it was a feeling that I could not alleviate or take away. Jackson was experiencing regret for the first time…or at least in such a tangible and clear way that I could name the feeling for him.
His choice to forego the craft following a story-time we were at today had come back to haunt him. He knew now that he wished he had stayed and done the glue and paper activity. But, alas, it was too late. Too late to see what he would have created. Too late to see what the snack would have been had he stayed.
The pain he was experiencing was so real, so recognizable that I could do nothing but simply be in the moment with him. After a while, I encouraged him to go to sleep with the assurance that he would probably feel a little less sad in the morning; and watched as he drifted away into quiet rest.
Watching my son cope with the pain of regret was incredibly poignant for me today because I have born the weight of it all too often over the past few months. I have tasted over and over again the reality that sometimes you don’t get a second chance. That sometimes the words you say…or don’t say…are the last chance you’ll ever get to speak to someone. That a feeling of urgency may just as quickly become a barb of regret if not acted on.
And tonight, as usual, I know regret.
I could add a peppy ” but this isn’t the end of the story…everything will be fine”…blah blah blah. But I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like I will ever stop making mistakes or doing things I regret.
………………………So I take a moment to feel. Feel pain. Let it remind me that I’m alive. Not rush away from it to the shelter of solutions or dependencies that numb. I ask myself why I do things I know I will regret? Why I do what I don’t want to do? I explore the tension and allow it for as long as I can (which is never very long)……………………..
And now I draw hope from these words spoken by an ancient and wise man: “He has made everything beautiful in its time…”
From this I am reminded that regret–and the mistakes that evoke the feeling– are not new to the human condition, nor is it unique to me to make mistakes and regret them. Weakness is ancient and will one day, somehow, be redeemed. And so, I will rest in the knowledge of eternity, redemption, beauty for ashes and eternal hope.
And I renounce guilt and shame because regret is the gateway drug for those two thugs. I may make mistakes, regret them, feel sad for a while and hopefully learn not to do it again. But there is no benefit to allowing them to become burdens of self-hatred. And since Jesus frequently asserted that we should “Let not your hearts be troubled…” I believe that guilt and shame should never be submitted too even following my most hurtful offenses.
So while I was teaching Jackson about regret tonight, he was reminding me that feeling regret is only human…and will never be eternal.