My grandfather owned a sawmill in Leesville, South Carolina. Once, as a little fellow, I went with him to work. While the men worked, I played with my little trucks on a huge mound of sawdust. No self-respecting sawmill man would ever try to saw sawdust. But most of us do it all the time.
As I pen this blog, I’m looking out the window of my home and watching leaves fall off of our apricot and ash trees. I would have to be just a little bit deranged to think that I can put those leaves back on the tree. Yet for many us, that’s exactly what we do.
Regret’s like that. We fret, we worry, we stoke up anger in our heart for things that have happened to us in the past. We can’t change what happened ten years ago; we can’t even change what happened ten second ago.
We have no power over the past, but the past can have power over us. Regret can devour our spirit and ruin our future. But there is another way—God’s way—and this is power in our past. Power in our past means profiting from our mistakes and learning from them.
Many years ago, while in Newport Beach, California, I met a man who had been a millionaire. He had lost everything through drinking, illicit sex and gambling. But he was rebuilding his life with a joy that was contagious. He had found Christ and every morning he went to AA meetings, mentored men, then went to work full of vision for his startup company. Regrets? Of course. Focused on his regrets? Not at all.
I have a close friend who, when I met her, was ingesting handfuls of pills every day, had about every ailment imaginable and was packed full of demons. She came to church, gave herself to Christ, got set free and started helping others; now, some twenty years later, is happily married and a mighty prayer warrior. Regrets? I’m sure. Focused on her regrets? Not at all.
You can’t saw sawdust; you can’t put leaves back on the tree, but you can rebuild your life through learning from the past and focusing your energy toward the future. Why waste the tears? Of course, we have failed. If you haven’t had some failures, then you’re not risking enough. Napoleon, the great general, lost one-third of the battles he fought. Babe Ruth, arguably the greatest home run hitter of all time, was also known as the “king of strikeouts,” accumulating over 1300 in his career. Nothing teaches us better than our mistakes.
Not sawing sawdust,
Steve Holt D.D. MA