“There are no regrets in life, just lessons” – Jennifer Aniston. “I have no regrets in my life whatsoever” – Drew Barrymore. “I have no regrets (in) my life” – Ike Turner.
I kinda get what they mean, but … really??? It seems any time the question of regret comes up, the pop mantra is to claim none … ever … even when one may have done or experienced horrible things in life. The follow-up is often something along the lines of, “… because it made me who I am today,” or some such thing. That’s fine, but what if “who you are today” is a … complete jerk? (I cleaned that up a little). Or what about the carnage often left in the wake of our (yes, regrettable) choices that we or others are left to sort out? Was that one way really the only way that could have made you who you are? And for that matter, is who you are today necessarily the best you that could possibly exist today?
This “no regrets” axiom seems to be a hip phrase to toss around these days. I think it’s (wrongly) ascribed a certain air of modern enlightenment. But are its proponents being completely honest? Or are they simply naive … or oblivious? Is it really possible to slog through the quagmire of a life on this fallen planet without a single regret … not even one? (Clarification: I cite the three people above only as examples of well-known individuals whom most readers would recognize by name. This is not a hit piece on them. I have nothing against any of them. Nor do I question their sincerity … not my place. They’re just the set-up for what follows).
And what follows is this: I … Randy … me … most definitely DO have regrets … a bunch of ’em. I regret that I failed to attend my friend, Billy’s funeral nearly 35 years ago because I was too self absorbed and out of touch to set aside my own teenage interests to do so. I regret the impudent and cavalier manner with which I sometimes treated Amy, Paula, Tammy, Kelly, Lisa, Mia, Terry, and several other sweet and kind-hearted girls … all of whom offered me nothing but goodness and sincerity of heart, which I blindly repaid with casual disregard, and at times, arrogance … all the while comforting myself with a silly 20-something notion that we were not in a “committed relationship.” Therefore, my actions were justified by another equally ridiculous theorem that “all’s fair in love and war.” I regret the ugly belittling and bullying words that occasionally fell out of my mouth in grade school … aimed at the flaws I perceived in others. And speaking of words, I regret the insensitive and dismissive manner with which I’ve formerly spoken of gay people (among others).
I regret that I allowed my own personal fears and insecurities to freeze myself into a dark and lonely shell of isolation; simultaneously freezing out a lovely and devoted young woman who had given her heart and life to me in marriage in 1996 to the point that ten years later, she felt left with no other alternative but to disappear one day and never speak to me again. I regret that in high school and college, I unwittingly allowed my own misguided and self-righteous devotion to a religion to essentially block out the love of a kind and gracious God … the very God of outrageous grace and mercy I claimed to pursue … all to the point that I in turn alienated many wonderful peers with whom I could have enjoyed rich and fulfilling friendships; but did not, because I feared being associated with certain kinds of people and behaviors (i.e. drinking a beer now and then … really?). I regret that I allowed my overly religious mindset and habits to blind me to the point that I actually thought I was just a little bit better than “those people.” (In stark contrast, Jesus (i.e. God) was the first one to run TO “those people” with no other agenda but to make a friend). I regret the many risks and chances I failed to take to meet and befriend dozens … maybe hundreds of truly great people over many years. I regret that many times I’ve indulged myself nearly drunk with envy and self pity (perhaps the ugliest of all emotions) over the fact that my life hasn’t always turned out as well as I perceive others to have done. I regret that that self-pity has often blinded me to the fact that God has showered me with such a good life that I literally cannot even begin to count or name all the blessings I do enjoy. I regret that all too often I’ve chosen fear over faith, thereby sentencing myself to a life much smaller and darker than it could have been. I regret that very often I’ve allowed myself to believe that I am somehow the one exception to the idea that God loves every single one of us more than we’ll ever grasp in this life. I regret that at times I’ve taken the inevitable losses in life that have come my way, and carried them over to the dark side and internalized them; rather than taking them to the shores of light and hope and viewing them as an opportunity to experience deeper grace, deeper love from the Almighty; and in turn taking those opportunities to turn grief into hope by giving away more love to someone nearby … anyone … perhaps right in front of me … someone who, like all of us, is yearning for it.
A few other regrets? Well, there’s that Hannah Montana tatoo, and flipping off that cop (OK … just joking on those, but the rest are real, I promise!) I regret that rock I fired into Dave Martin’s forehead after he’d fallen down in one of our goofy and frequent rock fights as kids … not to mention the beat-down he gave me afterwards. (Rock fights? Boy, how dumb were we???!!!) I regret that I didn’t choose a more secluded parking spot with my girlfriend in college on that ill-fated moonlit Saturday night … one where the sheriff’s deputy might not have found us in a, shall we say, compromising position. I do not, however, regret that the kind deputy took pity on us, choosing not to drag us in front of the dean at our … ahem … Christian college. (I’m guessing he appreciated the entertaining dinner table story for his wife at home, and fodder for a fun little chuckle on an otherwise slow night of small town police work). I regret that mullet and Miami Vice jacket with the rolled up sleeves back in the 80s. What was I thinking? And then there’s that ’74 Mustang II. What a piece of crap that was … nothing more than a Pinto with a facelift. It did have cool wheels, though … just about the only thing on the car that didn’t fall apart or rust into oblivion. Oh yeah … and then there was that one date with Dee Dee … one … let’s move on.
So yes, I do have some regrets … some of them very heavy. But you know what else I have? I have forgiveness … for all of it … even the mullet. I have the knowledge that it’s all swept away in a raging, never-ending torrent of overwhelming grace. I have the knowledge that grace relieves my past of the burden of playing taskmaster to my present … and my future. And because of this incredible, irrational grace … grace that reaches as high as the heavens are above the earth … as far as the east is from the west … I awaken today with another chance … and another tomorrow if I need it … and as much hope as I’m willing to embrace. That is what has made me who I am today … a divine and relentless flood of grace … nothing more, and nothing less. And on that count, I am with Jennifer, Drew, and Ike.