When my father was 14 years old, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. His new reality meant daily insulin shots and seriously limiting his sweets. However, the news with the greatest impact on his adolescent psyche was the doctor’s prognosis: “You will be lucky to live past the age of 40.”
Words like these can haunt us. They force us to reconcile the visions we had of our lives with the new reality. They alter our understanding of what our lives mean. They change the way we live, even who we love. Words like these can be a powerful force in our lives, the moment that woke us up, and they can also be debilitating, the moment the bottom dropped out. It depends on how we engage them, the resources we receive, and the communities that nurture us. What words are haunting you this month?
For some of us, like my father who lives with a chronic illness, we live with the reality that our days are truly numbered. My father knew the limits of his life from an early age. He understood that he didn’t have too many days to take for granted. Therefore, regret was something with which he had to wrestle.
Regret can haunt us. Even when never spoken out loud, regrets can plague our lives. “I wish I had…” “I should have done…” “I cannot believe I acted that way…” In fact regrets can take over our lives. The regrets that we have at work slide into our home life. What regrets are haunting you this month?
Being a long-haul person often means that we’ve acquired the skills to reconcile our regrets, or maybe even to live without them. That’s what I see in our congregation. I see members who want to live more deeply in their personal lives without regret plaguing at us. And I see a congregation who wants to make decisions about who we are and what we’re about that will move us boldly – and without regret – into the future.
As we welcome Autumn, and all of the trappings of Halloween and All Saints Day, UCS will engage the theme of Ghosts, or the Regrets that Haunt Us. In worship Terry and I will share stories and reflections on the role of regret in our lives and our communities. Our Spirit in Practice (SiP) Circles participants will share with one another spiritual exercises that help them identify the areas where regret is haunting them. (Don’t forget to sign up for SiP Circles!) Together we hope to grow some “regret muscles” — or the skills necessary to become long-haul people.
Last year my father celebrated a significant birthday. He has made it well beyond 40. Surrounded by family and friends, he shared with all of us that he never expected to live this long. And what a gift the years have been.
May all of our lives be filled with the gift of living reconciled with our regrets!