Regrets? I’ve had a few; just like the song says.
I regret losing my mother’s pie crust recipe. Because she made the best pie crust ever, and now I’m afraid to even attempt pie crust because I know — I just know — that mine will not be anything like hers.
I regret not paying closer attention to my dad when I used to follow him around our farm during his daily rounds of repair and maintenance and jerry-rigging solutions to problems out in the field.
There are days I’ll sit at the dining room table, head in hand, staring at some minor household fix-it job and thinking, “Why can’t I figure this out the way Dad could?”
Small regrets, maybe.
Then there are the bigger ones. Picking what I thought sounded like a practical college major to please my frugal parents, instead of studying what I really loved, and resenting that choice for years.
Keeping my distance from my father during my 20s and 30s, an awkward time when we couldn’t agree about anything from politics to theology.
Not being kinder to my mother in the later years of her life, when I was often frustrated by what seemed to be her increasingly bitter and oppositional behavior — only to find out, after she’d died from a heart attack, that what she’d been exhibiting was symptomatic of an undiagnosed, chronic physical condition.
I just didn’t know; no one did, until her autopsy.
Hindsight is 20/20 vision
Sometimes the hissing internal mantra of shoulda-woulda-coulda passes quickly, like a small dark cloud briefly darkening a sunny day.
But sometimes those feelings build into a long, roiling downward spiral. And how ironic that that storm of feelings can start brewing around the holidays — a time when everything from cheery greeting cards to ubiquitous mall Muzak sends the message that we should all be wrapped in happy memories like a warm Christmas quilt.
When we hear the Christmas story retold, and the angels’ message of “Peace on earth” to those astonished shepherds on a Judean hillside long ago, the image that is invoked in most of us is cessation of war — the “swords beaten into plowshares” promised by the prophets.
But what would it mean for us if God’s Messiah also brought a peace that laid to rest the chatter of resentments and self-recriminations that fight for our attention in our psyches?
What if the good will God intends for us includes a gracious gentleness toward the mistakes of the past — our own as well as others’?
What if the peace of God which passes all understanding flows back into the past and forward into a future that we can’t imagine even as it confronts us in the now?
What would it be like to enter into the cease-fire of God’s reign, defenseless as the Babe in the manger? Do I dare let down my self-protection, tear up my list of grievances and let myself be peaced together by the love of God?
Ellen Polzien is a commissioned lay minister in the ELCA. She is a writer, reader and gardener. As she says, “I am what happens to people who major in the liberal arts.”