Monday, December 16

Guest Post: Choosing Redemption Over Regret

Today, The Ruth Experience is excited to feature a guest post from Marisa O'Connor, who focuses on an important decision we face all the time: choosing redemption over regret. It's an especially timely reminder during this time of year, when so often we think about all of the things we could be doing or should be doing, rather than focusing on the simple joys of the season. 
 
Choosing redemption
For some time in my life, I unquestionably endorsed the figure of speech: "You make your bed, you lie in it." After all, there is truth to it – we make choices in life and we have consequences due to those choices. Recently, I've wrestled with why this phrase created feelings of irritation in me and concluded that it's the implied meaning behind this phrase... an unintentional or intentional, unhelpful way to put someone in their place, not unlike "I told you so."

That person knows they messed up and they know that you know they messed up. They don't need salt rubbed in their wound, and more importantly, they don't need to be shamed for their choices.

I've also come to the conclusion that phrases like that are simplistic and shortsighted, causing us to focus on an action rather than a journey. Choices and consequences provide opportunities to refine our character, change how we see God, increase our trust in him, and influence our future choices. This includes choosing opportunities to use our mistakes to help others through their journey.

I've made lots of choices in my life that have resulted in pain and long-term consequences for myself, and now, my family. In many moments of shame, self-pity, and misery, I have uttered the words "if only I hadn't..." because I wanted to escape my pain. In those times, I've chosen to dwell in my regret.

What's wrong with regret? Nothing. Regret is having sorrow, remorse, feeling loss. Sometimes our choices are poor and result in painful, life-altering consequences. Sometimes innocuous choices have horrible, unexpected results. Sorrow is a completely natural reaction.

What's wrong when we dwell in our regret? When I dwell in regret it becomes shame and self-pity (I can't believe I was that stupid...I should have known better...I shouldn't have to deal with this...it's not fair). Satan has moved right in to capitalize on my regret. Egocentrism takes over glorifying God: life becomes about me rather than him. I tend to push God away, fail to hear from him, and do not want to hear from him. Then I wonder where God is and I become angry that he isn't there!

My sorrow spins into a vortex of sin.

Similar to "You make your bed, you lie in it" and "I told you so," our regret can cause us to be shortsighted, and now we're rubbing salt in our own wounds. These responses focus on condemning a choice and reveling in someone’s (our own) misery.

When we focus on regret, we miss out on walking through a journey, where embracing or at least acknowledging the pain creates an atmosphere to be honest and open – with others, with God, and with ourselves. Life is painful, it's hard, and right now it just plain sucks. With honesty comes freedom, and healing can begin.

And pain does “go away” with healing. It might take awhile or come back occasionally, but at some point pain becomes intermittent, allowing you to breathe and not be consumed. At another point, your pain may serve a purpose – uniquely allowing you to help another person through their pain. Over time, you realize you're stronger and recognize growth that transpired from the pain. Finally, the pain fades or is bearable, even worth it, because the person you've become did not happen and would not have without that hurt, and without God working through that hurt.

The pains of our life choices “go away” because God allows you to choose redemption over regret. That is, when we're willing to let go of the pain in order to let God use it. He can change us, redeem us, and use our story to affect the people we encounter. It's how our story becomes part of his story.

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.” Psalm 107:2 (NIV, my emphasis)

Marisa O'Connor lives in Colorado with her husband Matt, and is a stay-at-home mom to two children (+ bun in the oven). She serves on the teaching team for her church's women's ministry, and finds joy in using her stories of transformation to honor God and reach other women. As an introvert, Marisa loves to recharge by curling up with a book and cup of coffee! Read more from Marisa at Living in the Eye of the Storm.
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And don't forget that we're in the midst of our Second Annual Advent Acts of Kindness, in which we're choosing to create, give, or share one kind act each day during the Advent season, chronicling our adventures via Facebook and Twitter (@RuthExperience), sharing joy and ideas with others using #adventkindness and #shelovesadvent. 

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