Leave Regret Behind
“Perhaps one of the most oft-quoted sayings I’ve heard is, “Don’t die with the music still in you.”
When Jesus called out to the fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” he was saying, “Follow me, and you will live a life free of regrets. Follow me, and you will live all the music that is in you.”
As a child, I was haunted by the notion that I would die without the people I loved knowing that I loved them. Whether this intense desire to express my feelings came from the daily drills we were doing in school, diving under our desks to avoid nuclear attack, or whether it was the Welsh blood in me that my grandmother declared was full of the poet’s muse, I am not sure. But I do know that starting around the age of ten, I began to write love poems and notes and cards in earnest. (Several years ago my mother hauled out ten huge boxes of cards and notes I have sent her over the years. She smiled and said, “Honey, I think I got your point. You love me. “Now, what do you want to do with these? I’m running out of space.”)
My friend and mentor Catherine Calhoun and I once observed in amazement how often people would burst into tears around us. The quality that Catherine and I have in common, which is perhaps the one that causes tears in others, is that we love to ask, “If all things were possible, what would you be doing with your life?” She has had pastors, CEOs, and bellboys choke up at this inquiry, and I have shaped a career out of asking this question a thousand ways.
It is God’s desire to see tigers be tigers, and lambs be lambs, and not have one think it must be the other. Never before in the history of the world has a civilization been more capable of living fully expressed and developed lives, yet the statistics are still staggering that we are not.
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America imprisons more of its population than any other country in the world, except Russia. So much for the notion that the land of the brave is also the land of the free. Freedom can come only from within, and Jesus was adamant about teaching that concept. We create our own prisons. We shut ourselves behind bars of our own making. Jesus hands us the key, but we are the only ones who can use it.
In an interview with pop singer Whitney Houston, Diane Sawyer asked, “So which of these drugs was the demon for you? Crack? Cocaine? Heroin?” Whitney looked at her for a moment and then said, “None of them was the demon. I was. I had the freedom to choose.”
Regrets are about things we wish we had done differently. Yet I believe that if we just take time to sit and project into the future a little bit, we can shape a life that is free of regret.
Carl Jung once said, “Nothing affects the life of a child so much as the unlived life of its parent.” You would not believe how this phenomenon of “unlived lives” is revealed to have shaped so much of our own existence. Take a moment right now for yourself, and identify what was your father’s or your mother’s unlived life. Once you identify it, you might see how much of your own life has been shaped by that regret . . . by the things your parent wanted, but was unable to do. Perhaps it was circumstances that caused both parents to have unlived lives. But perhaps it was choices they made, or failed to make, that kept them from fulfillment.
Taking that into the future, what “unlived life” are you facing?
Jesus talked about this when he said, in essence, “Don’t go out and build a bigger barn. Go out and build a bigger life.”