I got into a fist-fight in the fourth grade…Sort of.
I was playing tetherball with a buddy during our recess hour when another kid walked up. If you know anything about tetherball you would know that it requires a maximum of two people to play. Naturally, when our unexpected guest walked up and began interfering with our game, we became a little agitated.
We told him on multiple occasions that we weren’t interested in his company. We weren’t jerks about it, but we made certain he knew that he wasn’t welcome. Our efforts were in vain as this only egged the newcomer on.
Mind you, this is fourth grade. Nobody walking the recess block was using any intimidation tactics based on their size; including my buddy and me. We were also nerds. If you put two and two together, I’m sure you can figure out where this is going.
By the time we had issued several complaints about his presence, the little punk had made his way nearest to me and was within swinging distance.
It was my turn to serve so I latched on to the tetherball and held it by the rope. I knew what I was about to do, but it was one of those moments that you don’t think anything through. I swung the hand holding the tetherball into the air and connected with this kid’s face.
He teetered, I chuckled, he punched me in the face.
I wish that I could tell you that the rest of this story contained a knockout fist fight. Unfortunately, I cannot. The rest of the story goes a little something like this:
After the initial shock of being suckered in the nose, the nerdy fourth-grader did what any normal child would do: He ran screaming and crying bloody murder until he reached the teacher.
Long story short, he got in trouble and I lied my way out of it. Funny thing too because a year later we were in the same class and became best friends. I even tutored him with his math homework!
I love telling that story. It makes me chuckle because that’s so unlike me and to end up being punched in the face describes my luck. However, beyond the chuckles lays a deeper insight into who I am as a person.
It’s no secret that I was a terrible child during my second, third, and fourth-grade years. I was a lying, manipulative little punk. I remember major events from all three years and here, almost twenty years later, they speak to me on a deep level. Why?
While that specific event may have been the only “fist-fight” I have ever participated in, I’m a world-class fighter. I’m a bruiser. I step into the ring every day and pummel my opponent. I know his weakness. I know where to hit him, and I know how to hit him fast.
My fighting experience runs twenty-four years deep, and I’ve faced off against the same person every time: myself.
I believe that I can speak for the vast majority of us when I say that we are our most vocal critics. We are our worst enemies. I know that I am.
I’ve made a career and a habit out of perpetually KO’ing myself anytime I make a mistake. Take that bit of knowledge, apply it to twenty-four years of mistakes, and what you get is a beaten, discouraged shell of a man.
We all carry major regrets. We have all made foolishly stupid mistakes. There’s not a single individual walking on this planet who has lived a life of perfection. So why are we champions of a standard that we cannot meet?
Why is it that we spend our lives mulling over what could have been done differently? How come our dreams become laced with visual representations of our failures? Why are there millions of people who are rendered useless because of a crippling regret? Why are we not human beings living free from the weight of what we could have done, what we did not do, or what could have been different?
In short order the answer is sin. We Baptist Christians label that “the Sunday School answer.” It’s a common moniker but it’s true. Sin is responsible, but I’m tired of being vague. I want to identify a single, proprietary source for my debilitating regret.
After thinking, the singular word that comes to my mind is “pride.”
I’m glad you asked.
I see my pride playing two parts in this equation which then equals the sum of my foolishness.
1.) “I should’ve…I could’ve…”
2.) “I will never do it again…”
These thoughts stem from my imposed standard of perfection. I knew I shouldn’t have lied but I did it anyway. Why? I knew better. I then promise myself that I’ll never do it again which then only reinforces the idea that I should be perfect.
I CAN’T BE PERFECT.
I need to breathe in deep but I can’t because I feel like I’m bearing the weight of the world on my shoulders. The unfortunate part of it is that it’s no one’s fault but my own. It’s an endless, exhausting cycle.
Does any of this sound familiar? Is anyone out there hearing this? Relating to this? Am I the only one? I know that I’m not.
Here’s where all of this stems from and here’s why I’m even bothering to write about it…
I’ve been carrying a heavy load these past few months. I’ve been living with the weight and the consequences of decisions that I made years ago as well as decisions I’ve made only recently. I live my life in a state of frustration and anxiety because I would give everything to go back and change those moments. There are so many things that I wish I could redo.
I wish that I had the mental capacity of Doc Brown so that I could invent the flux capacitor in real life. Don’t you? I love that DeLorean!
Here’s the reality of my, and your situation, though: We can’t change the past.
There’s no time travel. There’s no flying DeLorean or phone booth. Time moves forward. What’s happened in the past stays there. There’s no “do-over” button to be pressed. I can’t change the decisions that I made a few years ago. I can’t erase the hurtful things I’ve said and done to others. I can’t undo what others have done to me.
I can, however, change and decide what I do with my today.
I’m writing this to you today because there’s nothing you can do about your past. You can’t change what that person said. You can’t change what you did. You can, however, look to God for unlimited forgiveness.
Jesus Christ on the cross raising from the dead gives us an opportunity to step into His presence and feel the weight of our guilt be lifted. Because of His selfless sacrifice, He has taken our burdens, our shame, and laid them upon His shoulders. He took them to the cross and buried them. He gives us freedom. He gives us a chance to start over.
My pride not only tells me that I’m a failure for not choosing right and that I’m a fraud for always messing up, it also tells me that I’m too sinful for God. My pride says that I’ve done too much to ever be forgiven by God. There’s no way that God could ever love me. My pride tells me that I’m the only one who can fix this.
Can I be honest? How are we, the ones who made the mistake in the first place, going to fix it and restore the situation to perfection? If it weren’t for us, we wouldn’t even have to fix it, to begin with! That’s why we need someone else to step in and bear the weight for us.
Jesus took our burdens, took our shame, and nailed them to the cross. When I say “our”, I mean yours, too. Yes, you!
I can’t change my past. Sitting around wallowing in my regret inhibits me from living in the now. I have the ability to choose who I am and who I become by letting go of my past, accepting it for what it is, and moving on. You and I will make mistakes until the day we die. You will never be perfect. No one is asking you to be, not even the God of the Universe. Forgive others, forgive yourself.
Freedom comes when we realize this and resolve ourselves to never let it keep us down.
You are loved.
You are valued.