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A life of peace

First slide

I remember the conversation so distinctly that I have to wonder if my subconscious burned it into my brain so that later it would be a reminder of nearly audacious confidence. I was a young adult, and a friend and I were discussing all things important to us at the time: marriage, parenting, education, homemaking — both big decisions and daily details of life. And I said, “You know, I really have no regrets. I’m sure there were some mistakes along the way, but I pretty much don’t regret any of my decisions or philosophies so far.”

I am dumbfounded by myself. With a couple decades’ hindsight, all I can tell over-confident me is, “Just wait. You’ll soon be able to fill a catalog with woulda, shoulda couldas … ” I had plans, so many plans, and even though I told myself I was clearly consulting God about those plans, I’m absolutely certain that sometimes, I just superimposed my will over his and told myself they were one in the same. So now, through the lens of time, I can clearly see that there are places that could have benefitted from a re-do.

But we cannot live in a constant state of looking though that lens. I think that most of us try to progress according to God’s plan for our lives — to hear his call and answer it with alacrity. We do the best we can, but with time we see that our best wasn’t really the wisest after all. Very few of us are born wise. Most of us acquire wisdom in the school of experience, and our experience is, in part, a series of mistakes. Looking back on those mistakes, we can begin to worry that instead of being in step with God’s plan, we managed to step outside his will. And then regret burns a path to despair and anxiety.

We need to check that worry and squelch it with all confidence. Instead of false assurance that we’ve not yet made a mistake, we can have full assurance that God’s plan wasn’t written in stone before we were born only to be made null and void if we stepped outside his perfect intention for our particular lives. He can work with our mistakes; he’s God.

Further, when we do make plans and they don’t work out the way we thought they would, God is right there in the uncertain place — even if the place is hard because we messed up. There is no bad decision that isn’t ripe for redemption by the grace of God. Even if that perfectly discerned philosophy of life doesn’t work and it’s because I made dozens of mistakes that were premised on a faulty plan from the outset, God can still work with the broken mess and make it wholly beautiful.

St. Teresa Benedicta writes:

“Whatever did not fit in with my plan did lie within the plan of God. I have an ever deeper and firmer belief that nothing is merely an accident when seen in the light of God, that my whole life down to the smallest details has been marked out for me in the plan of Divine Providence and has a completely coherent meaning in God’s all-seeing eyes. And so I am beginning to rejoice in the light of glory wherein this meaning will be unveiled to me.”

That means that even for the details I missed or messed up or made so much worse, God already has a plan. If they are given to him with genuine confidence in his goodness, they can be lit from within by his glory. It’s natural and even healing to grieve our mistakes. When we grieve in a way that allows for honest introspection and a prayerful examination of conscience, grief bears fruit in repentance, confession and reconciliation. We can lay sorrowful regret at the foot of the Cross and let Jesus transform grief by his grace, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor 7:10).

As long as we live, there is still time. It’s true that never again will we utter the words, “I have no regret.” But with every mistake offered to him with contrition, we have a new opportunity to live in the present. And in this present moment, Jesus offers abundant grace on the way to the life of peace and joy he always and still intends us to live.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, writes from Northern Virginia.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

@elizabethfoss