Scars. Scars tell of our triumph and fearlessness. I've got one of those, on my arm. It tells of the time that I heaved a log over a river to make a bridge for my bush walking team. Albeit a bridge that no one was inclined to trust.
Scars. Scars tell of our immense frailty. I've got one of those as well. Down on my ankle. This one viciously placed by a sunken chair at the bottom of a river I jumped into. In a matter of moments my body was rendered unable to naturally heal and I needed multiple stitches.
Scars. Scars tell of our regrets. I have those. Haunting me and reminding me of a time when I thought pain was a pathway to life. When I thought self-harm would bring self-worth.
Scars and regrets are two things every human you pass on the earth possess. Whether divided by creed or ethnicity, status or geography, all people everywhere have known pain and shame and regret. The most potent part of this pain is its core nature. By this I mean that while scars and regrets fade, they also remain indefinitely. We all come to the point where we learn that our regrets will be there to either haunt us for the rest of our lives, shame us, or at the very worst control us.
But this does not have to be the course of things.
Three ways we can approach our regrets better.
First, scar tissue is a fortified tissue that develops to protect a trauma where the skin has been hurt. Our deep shame and pain does the same. And sometimes a sense of regret is formed. We regret saying certain words that hurt those we love. We regret making that decision that resulted in broken friendship or relationship. Sometimes we regret life in a very general sense, because what happened to us was completely out of our control, yet still profoundly shook our worlds.
The first thing we can do, is let ourselves hurt. In the book Shattered Dreams, Dr. Crabb explores the disillusionment that rocks many people of faith. The number one problem is a refusal to deal with the pain. Somewhere along the road we have become conditioned to jump on the "It is well with my soul" train immediately after facing some sort of trauma or painful situation.
Yet, in doing so we bury our pain deep into a place where it eventually begins to control us. Grief of any kind improperly dealt with will lead to a life controlled by the fruit of deeply buried emotions. This can be expressed in cynicism, a critical spirit towards others, and an inability to accept oneself as being loved. We are emotional. God is emotional. And just as Jesus was not afraid to show his indignant anger and sorrow towards the death of Lazarus, we need to remind ourselves daily of that it is ok to embrace sorrow, grief and even anger more often than we think.
We can slow down and lament more.
In the Journey of Desire, John Elderidge chronicles his own rediscovery of desire after he lost his best friend in a freak climbing accident. We live in a fast paced world. Emails, Twitter, the little red candies on Facebook (notifications). We simply don't have time to deal with emotions, particularly ones we consider negative. Yet, Eldridge says we typically have small things to lament everyday and over time they continue to build up and bog us down.
Then when faced with a truly disheartening circumstance, we become emotionally constipated. He recommends, taking time once a week to lament. And if it sounds unmanly, just remember King David, the mighty warrior king of Israel, is more famous for his lamenting than anything else: its called the Psalms.
And finally, we can be authentic with each other. J.I. Packer identifies a trend of believers that he see as robbing the church of its authenticity. He calls them 'restless experientialists. When a service starts at church, how often are we told to leave all our concerns and focus only on Jesus? As if Jesus said 'Come to me all you who are weary but drop your concerns at the door because church is ME time!'.
This type of mentality tells us to worship ecstatically or be considered less spiritual. Enter, chase experience, listen to a sermon, leave. Yet, church is made for so much more. Not only can we come and be authentic with King Jesus and drop our cares to him, we can be authentic with one another because we were made to carry the load of one another. If Church loses its authenticity it becomes a hyped up social club where no one should waste their time.
We don't have to let our regrets, pain and shame control us. We can be free in Christ through the tools of grace we have been given. Remember, when Christ came he bore the full weight of the effects of evil: this includes our regrets, shame, and deepest pains.
Dan Peterson is from Chicago, Illinois USA, currently living in St. Leonards, Tasmania, studying cross-cultural ministry in his final year. Dan is a musician, and personal fitness trainer, who loves exploring the Australian bush.
Dan Peterson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/dan-peterson.html