ProdigalI have often heard people say, after they have gone through a very difficult time, “I wouldn’t change anything.” I understand the sentiment. After looking at a situation in hindsight, we can see the benefits that it wrought in our lives. I believe, however, that this can cause a sense of false guilt if we find ourselves in the other camp that says, “I hate that that happened to me. Full stop.” No “but I see how it helped me become a better person.” No “but I am glad that I had to go through that.”

May I encourage you if you are in that latter camp, because that’s where I have found myself too. At first I felt bad that I didn’t want to go through it again. “Maybe I’m not trusting God as much as I should,” I’d say. “Perhaps I need to work a little harder to see what God is trying to teach me,” I’d think. After all, Joseph was able to say that what his brothers intended for evil, God intended for good. True. God does take us through very difficult circumstances in order to bring us into a richer land of promise. But I don’t think it’s entirely wrong or unspiritual to say, “That was horrible and I wouldn’t want to go through it again!”

In fact, it may be the most unspiritual thing you can say when your sin was the cause of the issue. There are a slurry of things I would take back if I could. A million and another million things I wish I would not have had to go through. Words said in anger. Thoughts that did not honor Christ. Actions that hurt me and those I love. It would actually be wrong of me to look back at those times I sinned and say, “I wouldn’t change anything because I am a better person because of it.” It may sound magnanimous, but it belies a superficial understanding of how we actually work.

But there’s light. There’s always light, isn’t there.

When I pause long enough to actually embrace the regrettable past. When I embrace the fact that I messed up royally. That I hurt people. That people hurt me. When I don’t try to smooth it over with some form of detached gratitude. When I put away the alcohol swabs of derelict sanitization. And then let the hurt and the pain and grime be acknowledged for what it is, that’s when I can then begin to see reality as it is. I don’t smother it with kisses. I spit it out and say, “No, thank you.”

In fact, embracing my regrets has been the path the Lord has used not only in the healing, but in the letting go. The letting go of clinched fists in self-righteousness. The laying down the gavel of finite and self-centered pronouncements upon others.

Sure, I am thankful that God makes beauty from the ashes of my burned down houses. But I sure wouldn’t want to go through it again.