As we went round the room, everyone had a story to tell, an exciting, faith-lifting, story. I didn’t. Instead, I found the feeling of regret welling up inside me. I didn’t like it.
Let me rewind. There was a community festival and the church I’m part of decided to have a stall, so that they could engage with the local community. The plan was to strike up a conversation by offering passers-by a bottle of water, and then, if appropriate offer to pray with them.
Now, I’m all for community engagement, but this approach? I was dreading it; it took me a million miles outside my comfort zone. During the afternoon I found that my ‘gifting’ was organising the bottles of water at the back of the gazebo. I did venture out to give away a few bottles of water, I even struck up a conversation with one couple and found out that you can use the near-by tennis courts for free!
At our next leadership team meeting we shared stories. Everyone had a story to tell about interesting conversations they’d had with people who were searching for God, exploring spirituality, or going through a difficult time. Many people eagerly and gratefully accepted the offer of prayer. Despite all my reservations it was clear that God has been at work. I had missed out; all I could report was that the tennis courts were free.
It reminded me of how 11 of the disciples must have felt the day after Peter had walked on the water with Jesus. While Peter was having the adventure of a lifetime, they remained in the boat. Peter had a story to tell, they didn’t.
Do you have a fear of regrets? Many of us do.
In recent years there’s been a surge in ‘do before you die’ lists. Things to do, places to visits, restaurants to eat at, whiskies to drink, books to read, movies to watch, albums to listen to and walks to go on before you die.
Perhaps our repulsion at the idea of having regrets is, in part, responsible for these lists? Now, I doubt we’ll find ourselves lying on our death beds thinking: “Oh, I do wish I had tasted that whisky.” But, is it possible that these lists highlight the concern that many of us have, that we’re so busy living life that we might not do the things we want to do?
However, as I discovered a few weeks back, having regrets is rarely about the big once-in-a-lifetime holiday type things. More often they spring from everyday life. The biggest sources of regrets tend to be from missed opportunities rather than not doing the things we planned to do.
I don’t want to pass up opportunities; after all, it’s the surest way to stop a good story being created. Particularly, because that afternoon, while I was at the back of the gazebo arranging bottles of water, I was potentially missing creating stories that would have lasted for eternity.
As Mark Twain once said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”