A while back, I was reading something that gave me the idea to make a list. More precisely, four lists. I would look back at my life and think of four categories of things that have been factors in shaping my life and how I have lived it. I did that, and I want to share something of what I learned.
The first group contains regrets. That contained far too many items. It included my desires, both that many were and remain unmet, and the idea that I thought I could make things happen to satisfy these deepest longings. The result was a wreck. Also included are injuries, both those inflicted on me and those I have inflicted on others. There has been much pain, some mine and some caused by me in others, acting out of my own pain into their lives.
Then there are the decisions I have made. Some have been good ones, and I have no regrets about them. But others have been hideous, and have caused havoc in my life and the lives of those around me. Finally, the thing I regret the most - and perhaps the root of all the rest - is my astonishing arrogance. Through much of my early adult life I was an arrogant, know-it-all ass. And that's being gentle about it. I grieve over the pain I caused so many people in that time.
There are also the lies. Some of these are lies I was told by others - lies that I believed. They began at a young age, and shaped my life for many years. "Larry, something's wrong with you. You need a psychiatrist." (I was a struggling teenager, in teenage rebellion. I needed someone - a father - to love and encourage me.) I grew up believing I couldn't do anything right, that I had no talents and not much intelligence. In short, I didn't think I was worth much. These things had a terribly destructive effect on my life, and they were the work of others in my life.
But there were also lies I told. Some, I told to others, trying to make myself into someone worthy of respect. Didn't work. Others, I told to myself, with the same goal. Didn't work there, either. Some of the latter were that I was simply incompetent to live a fulfilling life. A born screw-up. At the same time, that I was very competent to do just that. Looking back, the first involved relationships, where I didn't do well. The second, intellectual and vocational matters, where I did better.
I joined the Air Force the day after graduating high school. I accomplished that graduation by the narrowest of margins, and my departure was a relief both to the school and my family. I was not fun. But in the structure of the Air Force, I excelled. I was incompetent and I was competent. And both were lies. In truth, I was at the same time both more and less competent than I thought.
I also told myself - reinforced by the behavior of some others, that I could have personal value if I just worked hard enough. I could earn success and respect, both self-respect and the respect of others. And the truth is, I could indeed excel at some things, but when I did, whether it impressed others or not, it made no difference in my own sense of value.
Then there are my fears. Actually, one fear. There is only one thing that frightens me to the point of paralysis: sameness. The idea that what is will always be, frightens me. The idea that I am condemned to making one mistake after another, and even after I learn better, stumbling around in the endless swamp of consequences of my mistakes, is terrible. Is there nothing better? Is this all there is in life? Not much to recommend it.
And that brings me to my hopes. You may be surprised to hear that my hopes do not include a nicer house, more education, better relationships and all that. Oh, and a sailboat. I would like to have those things, to be sure. But I have no hope that I can bring them to pass in my own strength.
My hope is in this: There is a redeeming God, one who knows me, as messed up as I am, and who passionately loves me and delights in me. And He is a God who blesses me, who grants me the great honor of knowing him, serving him, working in his Kingdom. And in him, nothing is lost, nothing wasted. Even the train wreck that has characterized portions of my life is and will be redeemed by The God Who Speaks, the God who cares deeply ... for me!
That makes all the difference. Hallelujah!