You Can’t Go Back (and that’s ok).

I’ll turn 51 this year.  Over a half-century.

When I was a kid, I thought people who were 30 were old, and 50 year-olds were…well…real old.

2012 will be my 22nd year in full-time ministry in a local church.  Before that, I was working in some capacity in a church part-time.  Since 1979.

Have I been faithful?  I’d have to answer yes to that.

Have I done everything right?  No.  Absolutely not.

Do I have regrets?

Paul Tripp, professor of Pastoral Life and Care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, answers my question correctly in his blog, Regretful But Not Devastated, on the Gospel Coalition site.  And, while his encouragement is aimed at pastors, it can be applied, I believe, to everyone.

In looking back, he says:

But as you get older…you begin to look back at least as much as you look forward. As you look back, you tend to dig through the mound of the civilization that was your past life…looking for pottery shards of thoughts, desires, choices, actions, words, decisions, and relationships. You can’t help but assess how you have done with what you have been given.

I’ve omitted his references to ministry because I want to show that what he says applies to everyone.  Everyone looks back, everyone has a regret about an action, a relationship, a word, a season.  Sometimes, even in the midst of our actions, we have regrets.

In response to our failures, Tripp says this:

If you and I are at all willing to humbly and honestly look at our lives, we will be forced to conclude that we are flawed human beings. And yet we don’t have to beat ourselves up. We don’t have to work to minimize or deny our failures. We don’t have to be defensive when our weaknesses are revealed. We don’t have to rewrite our histories to make ourselves look better than we actually were. We don’t have to be paralyzed by remorse and regret. We don’t have to distract ourselves with busyness or drug ourselves with substances.

We can be honest and realize and admit that we are sinners, we make mistakes, we move on looking forward, not behind.  Tripp goes on to conclude:

We can do all of these things because, like David, we have learned that our hope in life is not in the purity of our character or the perfection of our performance. We can face that we are sinners and rest because we know that God really does exist and that he is a God of:

Mercy,

Steadfast love,

Abundant Mercy

Because he is, there is hope—hope of forgiveness and

new beginnings.

Yes, we really can fully acknowledge our sin and failure and yet be unafraid.

So, do I have regrets?  Yes, I do.  That’s why I appreciate Paul Tripp’s encouragement, both as a pastor and as a person.  It reminds me that, while I’m good at making mistakes, I can be even better at moving on because of God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness.  That’s what I need to remember.

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