Walking the lonely path of regret

 

 

Regret — it can be a tortuous wave of despair that keeps on rolling over and over through our lives.

Whether it be one momentary lapse of good judgment or a season of unhealthy patterns that form the perfect storm, the actual event that leads to regret changes everything. And it is rarely ever a solo punch.

Most often the lives of everyone connected to the person suffering from regret are changed in some way — and some forever.

It is more than being disappointed about getting caught or offering false remorse for receiving negative pushback. It is a genuine feeling of repentance that grips us at the center of our soul.

Regret is a true feeling of remorse, deep repentance and extreme sadness over what has happened. You will know it when you see it. The humility, the despair, the brokenness seep from the person’s pores.

Surviving the initial blow, humiliation and blowback is the first step. And while that first step is hard the lonely journey that follows might be even harder for the truly repentant.

Space for grace

But brokenness leaves the regret-filled person with a choice just as it offers those around them an opportunity.

For the person walking through regret, it can provide a space for God to show us His grace in a way never experienced before. When we know more of the depth of our sin and brokenness, we can marvel even more at the unfathomable love and forgiveness offered to us through Christ.

Power in the pain

But we have to make that choice. We have to choose to let those painful memories drive us to worship and experience gratitude for our forgiveness. We have to choose to let our pain push us toward Christ and away from deeper sin.

And for people who are surrounding the person carrying regret, it’s a chance to remember God’s grace and remember our own sins too.

None of us is perfect. We all have the ability to dive headlong into sin. We have to call each other to right choices, but when someone is truly repentant, we can choose to walk alongside our broken brother or sister in love.

That’s who we are. We strive for holiness. We repent with sincere hearts. We bind up our wounded. The key is real repentance — and real love.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Touch of kindness makes a difference

Big Jim

Alabama’s Jacob Tidwell (left) and Kaylee Roth (center) assist Big Jim Salles of Texas as he registers for the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix on June 13. (Photo by Jennifer Davis Rash)

Big Jim didn’t like the formality at all. “James Salles” on his nametag just wouldn’t do.

He promptly requested a Sharpie and took care of it. Now that’s better, he said.

The proud Texan and his wife, Sue, (or Mother, as he called her) were late registering for the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix. They had car trouble along the way and were exhausted by the desert heat but the sweet southern accents and polite nature of two young Alabama Baptists made everything right again.

Jacob Tidwell of First Baptist Church, Montgomery, moved immediately to creating a new nametag for Big Jim with the approved nickname so he didn’t have to wear the Sharpie-
corrected version.

Tidwell showed the same care for “Ms. Sue” as he made sure she collected her book of ballots, convention program and nametag. Tidwell’s astute observation skills and polite but quick action combined with Judson College student Kaylee Roth’s sweet banter pulled big smiles and lots of laughter from the Salles family.

‘Honey bunches’

And Roth’s warm smile and Cracker Barrel-trained “thanks, honey bunches” sealed the deal — Big Jim and Ms. Sue felt totally at home.

Tidwell and Roth were among 23 college-age young adults from Alabama Baptist churches serving at the SBC registration counters and as greeters and ushers at the doors.

Once I knew the secret code — they were all wearing white golf shirts — then they were easy to spot in the crowds.

As I approached the front door to the convention center the next morning, friendly smiles and warm welcomes greeted me. And yes — white shirts. More Alabama Baptist young adults representing our state and our faith with joyous hearts and gracious spirits.

Alyssa McGee of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Maplesville, and a student at the University of Alabama; Korey Cowart of Central Heights Baptist Church, Florence,and a student at the University of North Alabama; and Rita Pearson-Daley of First, Montgomery, and a student at UAB — all showcasing the Light as they served.

‘Staying with the stuff’

These roles aren’t seen as glamorous like the activities of the platform personalities or the featured presenters at the top-level exhibits but they are acts of service that affect the experience of the participants. They are what a friend of mine calls “staying with the stuff.”

There must be a dependable support team in place consistently working through the routine parts of any ministry, organization or event. Without that team the people called to be out front wouldn’t be able to sustain their responsibilities.

My co-worker Wanda emailed me a prayer as I departed for Phoenix: “May God bless you in your coming and going. May you be so full of the Holy Spirit that He splashes out wherever you walk.”

Her words resurfaced in my mind as I watched our Alabama students in action. What a difference a touch of kindness, joyous heart and gracious spirit make — even in the routine moments.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

When news reporters get it wrong

The print version of the article hit the newsstands the day after the interview. The digital version was live only hours after the reporter wrapped up her questions.

My kind of reporting — immediate. But with that kind of turnaround also comes the potential for mistakes.

I knew the potential so I carefully pointed out the misunderstandings made by other reporters earlier in the day, but she made other errors.

And I will admit it was frustrating to see my name in print as having said something I did not say and having described something in words I would never use.

Plus everyone personally acquainted with the story knew what was incorrect in the article, so my pride kicked in because I feared they wouldn’t know it was a reporting error and would think it was my mistake.

I had a decision to make. Would I contact the reporter and yell at her or would I think about the situation calmly and be part of the solution rather than create more havoc?

Being a journalist and knowing what it is like to be on the other side of the situation, I decided to be part of the solution.

Yes, she made mistakes in the reporting, so she needed to correct the information.

That’s where I started.

Correcting the facts

I emailed her to thank her for covering the story and turning it around so quickly. I also noted that I understand the difficulty of trying to grasp every angle of a story in a matter of about 30 minutes, then write a story on it in less than two hours.

It is similar to being assigned a research topic in school — something you are not personally familiar with — and having to crank out a summary of the most important points of the topic in a few hours.

Yes, those who carry the reporter title have (or should have) been trained to do the job and are more versatile than most to know which parts of the story are vital and which can be left out. But it is still a tremendous amount of pressure to reconcile in your own mind what exactly the story is and then to relay all the points with perfect factual accuracy.

Focusing on the facts

And you also have the challenge of knowing for sure who the expert is on the subject and who isn’t as well as working to keep the source on topic so you don’t get distracted with unnecessary pieces of information.

Print journalists have an advantage over broadcast journalists because they have a little more time to verify the facts of the story and work to gain a better understanding, but in all news reporting cases, time is extremely limited.

My recent personal experience with being misquoted reminded me of how grateful I am when those we report on in Baptist life take the time to provide information for us in advance so we have a better chance of reporting accurately.

It also helps to have the basic who, what, when, where, why and how spelled out in a fact sheet or news release of some sort to save us time chasing down those basic bits of information.

I also realize how all of us can improve our communication in general by remembering that those outside our bubbles cannot understand the parts of the stories we are living at the same level we do. Using slang terms makes for insider language others might misinterpret. Leaving out important details or making assumptions also causes confusion.

Telling our stories clearly and succinctly — and showing a bit of grace — goes a long way for the greater good.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

Can we agree to disagree?

I look back now and see that it was actually kind of rude of me to dump all of my frustrations on my friend and colleague. He didn’t have any control over the decisions that were being made nor the seemingly disrespectful way they were being carried out. Sure he was employed by the organization but he was not among the leaders making the difficult moves.Donuts image

Why I let the situation upset me so much I don’t recall, but I do remember the graciousness with which my friend handled me. He stopped what he was doing and let me vent, which actually left him with a late night working to finish up a deadline because I held him hostage debating the issue that was forefront in my mind.

I never once thought of his schedule, his responsibilities, his energy level nor even what heavy burdens he might already be carrying. I used him as a sounding board whether he wanted to be or not.

And he kindly sat there and listened, nodding sympathetically as I talked. I asked him why but my question was not sincere. My mind was made up and I wasn’t really interested in why nor any of the details that led to the decision. And I certainly wasn’t interested in hearing viewpoints from the other side. I really thought that if I could convince my friend to agree with me then we might have a chance to change the leaders’ minds.

Gracious response

When I finally took a breath, he said he understood how frustrating it must be to hear the news without having been part of the internal discussions. He also agreed there was no guarantee the decision was the right one, but he reminded me that I was not privy to all the information and that sometimes tough decisions have to be made for the greater good. Sometimes individuals or even groups have to sacrifice their preference in a situation if it means unifying the whole.

Granted there are essentials of the faith on which we as believers in and followers of Jesus Christ must never compromise. But when the issue falls in the nonessentials category, there must be a willingness to — at the very least — have calm, controlled and open dialog.

When it gets personal

What gets hard is when people on the various sides speak disrespectfully to each other or when one side tries to shut down the other side without a fair hearing. When this happens, it takes a lot of discipline to control emotions and not take the comments personally.

The difficulty level rises if conversations about controversial topics develop into a time of tossing blame or indicating the way it is being done by an opposing force is “wrong” merely because the person doing the talking disagrees. Conversations where all parties are respectful to the various viewpoints being shared are certainly more productive.

I know it disappoints me when my opinion is not valued, even if my opinion is still being shaped as I’m attempting to understand a situation.

Understanding all sides

Another friend shared with me recently that he enjoys reading articles and comments from people on all sides of an issue. He said it helps him better understand the issue. Many times it serves to solidify his own thinking while helping him know how to converse with those who disagree. And then other times, he might even adjust his own way of thinking.

As I attempt to learn from the wisdom of my two friends, I also am reminded to seek direction and wisdom from the Word of God in how to relate to others (Gal. 5:22–23), truly stay in tune with God (2 Chron. 7:14) and live life in general (Luke 10:27).

—Jennifer Davis Rash