I’ve made a few terrible mistakes in my short twenty-seven years. A serious understatement. It’s possible that I could begin an article series that walks through every horrible decision I’ve made and still have enough content to keep me busy, and you laughing, for years.
Like the one time I decided it would be a good idea to hop the baseball fence in an effort to impress one of the softball girls I was crushing on. I was playing Baseball as a Sophomore in high school.The cool thing to do back then was, well, act cool. I remember leaving my gloves on the other side of the fence “accidentally.” I figured this was a great moment to showcase my athletic ability. It just so happened that the entire softball team was running right past the spot I was going to jump over.
I took off in a dead sprint, probably to the bewilderment of this poor softball team. I remember talking to myself the entire time, “Don’t screw this up.” “Just have confidence and you’ll make it.”
I remember grabbing the fence, launching off of my feet, and flying through the air like Michael Jordan. The problem was that I wasn’t really flying and I have the athletic ability of a dead rat. My feet didn’t clear the top of the fence.
The next thing I know I’m lying face down on the ground, feet tied up in a knot on the fence, and this poor girl jogging past me with the most pathetic, almost sad for me, look on her face.
We didn’t work out.
The crazy, funny, stupid part of the story? I never needed to jump the fence. There was an opening in the gate five feet to my left that I could have walked through, grabbed my gloves, and avoided disaster.
I look back on that story and can’t help but laugh. It’s a trite story that bears little consequence other than a shattered self-esteem. What about the mistakes with real consequences, though? You know, the ones that keep you from sleeping. The ones that gnaw at your stomach, heart, and head all day long and all night. The ones that plague your dreams. The ones that you take with you to the grave.
Amidst all of our disagreements, it should be universally understood that if there’s one thing in common we share, one boat we’re all in, it’s our ability to make wrong choices, mess things up, or to fail. Out of all of the proverbial boats we could find ourselves in, wouldn’t this be the boat to “rule them all”? A Titanic, if you will.
Another commonality we share is the feeling of regret. I can almost guarantee that as you’re reading this article, you’re mentally pinpointing an event in your life in which you regret. It could be something light and funny like my fence story or it could be a tragic mistake you wish to hide in the recesses of your mind. Perhaps it was something done to you that you blame yourself for. No matter the severity of the regret, we all experience it.
The unfortunate problem is that for most of us the severity of our regret rarely ranges in the “lighthearted” zone. We usually remember events that have traumatized us, broken us down, left us in heaps of ourselves. These events and the regrets that usually follow can leave us in a scattered state of mind, heart, and soul. You find yourself to be a shell of who you once were, desperate to pick up the pieces with no viable ability to do so.
How do we gain freedom from these chains? Is there a way to experience the peace that comes with being set free from past misdeeds?
In the twenty-second chapter of Luke, we find Jesus on trial for blasphemy, amidst a host of other “charges”. All of His best friends had abandoned Him except for one. Peter, God bless Him, is trailing Jesus from a distance too ashamed and afraid to be too close. Not but a few hours prior it was predicted that before the sun rose Peter would deny knowing Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. Of course, Peter vehemently argued it would be the opposite.
Peter was hunkering in a courtyard by the fire early in the morning when his first accuser came.
“Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.”Luke 22:56
I can imagine Peter freezing in this moment. He said the first thing that came to his mind…
“But he denied it, saying “Woman, I do not know Him.”Luke 22:57
One down. As the night progressed, more began to recognize Peter’s face. You have to realize Jesus’ ministry in that day was widespread and Peter was glued to Jesus’ hip. Of course they recognized him.
Two more approached Peter throughout the evening and you may be aware of how this story ends. He not only denies Jesus three times, but on the third invokes a legal oath on himself. He basically says, “If you find me to be lying, I swear to God you can kill me.”
What makes it even more impactful is that at this moment, the rooster crows and the sun rises. Other translations don’t include this, but Luke says,
“And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered…”Luke 22:60b-61a
What kills me is that in this very moment, what could be argued as Peter’s worst moment, Jesus turns and makes eye contact. Peter then remembers the prediction and leaves weeping.
In this moment, Peter realizes everything that he isn’t. He isn’t a strong, independent, fierce fighter that would go the grave with Jesus. In fact, he’s anything but. Fast forward a few chapters and we find Jesus hanging on a cross, falsely murdered.
Regret. Shame. Fear. Depression.
I’m sure you could imagine Peter feeling it all. The beautiful thing? Jesus rose from the dead three days later! You would expect Peter to be exuberant and rejoicing that his mistake was not all that costly. More or less I would expect Peter to be apologizing.
No. We find Peter moping and back to doing the only thing he thought he was good at: fishing. Jesus comes to him in the middle of the night, recreates the scene in which Peter betrayed Him, asks him three questions, and effectively restores Peter to ministry. Some two months later, Peter is preaching to thousands of people as they put their trust in the Lord.
An incredible story. (Feel free to read it on your own time if you’d like: Luke chapter 22 and John 21).
What we see is a prime example of the one who can sever the chains of regret. It’s Jesus! If there’s anyone more qualified to release us from our bondage, it’s Him. Made in the image of man, experienced temptations and emotions as we do, but was perfect and with no sin. He was falsely murdered but did so voluntarily for you and I. Three days later He overcame the grave and promised spiritual life for all of those who believe.
That spiritual life includes freedom from the regret of our mistakes and the forgiveness of those mistakes! He’s given you a way to be set free. He’s given me a way to sleep at night. He’s given us a peace that we cannot provide for ourselves.
He’s given us himself.
If you’ll notice, I didn’t title this article “3 ways to sever the chains of regret.” I’m not about prescribing you a to-do list to get better at life. This is a process. “Severing”…It’s an active, present fight towards the directive – the chains of regret. It’s a lifelong journey but a worthwhile one if pursued in the right direction.
I hope that, if you read this article, you’ve been given a measure of piece and encouragement. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me at email@example.com. We’re in this together. I’m still fighting and I don’t know all of the answers. You’re not alone.
You are loved.
You are valued.
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