I have regrets. I’m not immune to errors in judgement. I’ve made mistakes.
Even worse, I’ve done things wrong that weren’t mistakes. They were deliberate words and actions that I knew were wrong and I did them anyway.
I’ve accomplished things. There are things in my life that make me proud. Degrees I’ve gained. Friends I’ve kept. Family I’ve loved. Trophies for this and that. Not perfect, but proud.
When I look back on my life, some days I see the warts. Sometimes I see smiles.
The problem when my regrets fill the horizon is that I don’t look back far enough. I only look at my life. My disappointments. My hurts and pain over the last 40 years. If only I would look further into the past. 2000 years further…
When I look deeper into the past I see Jesus. I’m reminded that as he wept in the Garden of Gethsemane he looked 2000+ years into the future. He saw my shortcomings. He knew I’d disappoint him and others. He knew that at times I’d choose to ignore him. Knowing all this he still took the actions necessary to forgive me. He died for my benefit. He welcomed me into his family.
The attitude that I bring with me today often reflects how far I look into the past. Can I look backwards past my regrets just as Jesus looked forward past them? Can I look back far enough to see Jesus, or will I allow my regrets to block that view? Will I move through today with the baggage of yesterday or the freedom given me by Christ?
Each January I lead the Lawson Rd Church of Christ through a process of reflection and projection that we call Vision Sunday.
When we reflect on the past year there are always things we wish we’d done differently. Situations that we could have handled better. People we could have loved more. How we view the past has a big influence on the future. We can criticise it. We can become discouraged by it. We can learn from it. We can be motivated by it. Or we can focus on the places God’s hand is obvious and praise him.
Today is Martin Luther King Day in the US of A. We face the same process and the same choices. MLK Day prompts us to spend time looking both backwards and forwards. When we do so…
- We can criticise Dr King for his shortcomings.
- We can criticise the day.
- We can be discouraged by aspects of the past or the lack of progress of the past 50 years.
- We can continue to learn from the civil rights movement.
- We can be motivated to continue the work of those who’ve gone before us.
- Or we can look for God’s hand in our history and praise him.
I am firmly in the camp of the last three. Dr King’s vision of equality and love for all neighbors comes from the pages of Scripture and the heart of God. We’re not there yet, which means we all still have roles to play in standing against discrimination and racism. Don’t just read this and do nothing. I encourage you to take a moment and write down something you can do to encourage racial harmony.
How we look at the past, individually, as a church, or as a society, will influence the way we view and live the future. As individuals we must believe that we can make a difference. As a society we must admit the wrongs of our past and work to right them. As Christians, we acknowledge our regrets, but move forward in the power of Christ, filled with hope while working for a better tomorrow.
The psalms provide a wonderful example for using the past to motivate the present as we move into the future. They contain many examples of praising God for past faithfulness that inspires confidence in His future faithfulness. Yesterday during worship we read the first few verses of Psalm 21 and I’ve copied them here for your encouragement.
The king is glad because You, O Eternal, are strong.
In light of Your salvation, he is singing Your name.
You have given him all he could wish for.
After hearing his prayer, You withheld nothing.
True blessings You lavished upon the king;
a crown of precious gold You placed upon his head.
His prayer was to live fully. You responded with even more—
a never-ending life to enjoy.
With Your help, his fame and glory have grown;
You raise him high and cover him in majesty.
You shower him with blessings that last forever;
he finds joy in knowing Your presence and loving You.
For the king puts his trust in the Eternal,
so he will not be shaken
because of the persistent love of the Most High God.