My feet step quickly over the burning deck wood and I nestle into my favorite chair. The summer sun wraps itself around me while the ocean air drifts over me. Hummingbirds zoom over my head to their freshly filled feeders, flowers show off their fanciest blossoms. Looking around I am in awe of where I once stood and where I am today. I don’t live a well-to-do lifestyle and I certainly don’t have life figured out, yet, I feel blessed.
In the last twenty years, my life has changed immensely and I believe I can confidently say that I have changed as well. While I’ve grown over the entirety of my life I’ve been contemplating the past twenty years more specifically. I am often asked if I regret a life-altering decision I made just over 18 years ago when I chose to marry my first husband, Nicholas, who now goes by the name of Alex. At the time I believed Nicholas and I had a deep love for one another. A little over seven years later I learned the love we shared was one-sided and that part of my life had essentially been a lie.
Regret is an interesting word with both shallow and deep meaning. I believe we all have regrets to some degree or another. I know at times I’ve regretted decisions I’ve made, like the second slice of cake I had or the time I let the break off too soon and bumped the car in front of me. I realize these may seem like small regrets and I believe that is because in many ways they are. These are the types of mishaps we all experience and move beyond easily. Well, except for the cake, I’m still wearing that regret on my hips. It is important though to understand that the accidents which occur beyond our control are not the types of regrets being discussed here.
Nicholas is not a regret. He is a lesson. He helped create the kids I cherish and love so deeply. Nicholas is a blessing. He tore my heart open and ripped it to shreds. The life I knew and loved was destroyed because of him, and yet, I don’t regret one moment spent with him. Had he not been brought into my life I would have missed a number of life lessons and gifts. Jeremiah 29:11 is often on my mind and a great reminder when I experience the ‘what-if’ moments; God knew the plans He had for my time with Nicholas. What man meant for evil God uses for good (Genesis 50:20). God chose to use Nicholas and his horrifying choices to help me to know Him and the gospel in a way I hadn’t before. I have been given a gift of life that I wouldn’t have without having first walked through that fire.
God gives us more than we can handle, but He won’t give us more than He can handle. I’ve had to remind myself of this over and over for many years. When Nicholas disappeared and then when his other life was revealed, my heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe. I needed new life. God took my hand and showed me a new path, one without Nicholas, a path that was terrifying. For quite a while I felt as though I was walking through the dark unable to see and unable to breathe even though God had been guiding my life since I was a young child.
With each turn in my new journey, God breathed new life into me. When I moved into a new house, then when my youngest son was born, and again when He brought my husband Brent and I together, there was new life and I began to breathe. He continued to bring new life and my old one is now a memory that I am grateful for and thankful is dim.
Without a past, we wouldn’t be able to look back and see the lessons God has taught us and the growth we have because of it. We can look to the future and know that as long as we breathe in this earthly air more growth will come and yes, some of it will hurt tremendously. If we live our lives avoiding regrets we aren’t cherishing the gifts we are given.
I sit on my deck enjoying the summer and breathe deeply knowing I am in His hands, He has it all figured out, and He loves me no matter what. I am thankful for the richly blessed life and lessons God has given me and those that are yet to come. While the journey is scary and heartbreaking at times, I know it is for my best because it will always help me to know God better and love Him deeper. I remind myself that regrets and what-ifs are simply a waste of this beautiful life.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Psalm 147:3-11