When Regret Slaps You in the Face

by | Apr 4, 2012 | Uncategorized

Light illuminates leaves like fireflies on sticks behind sheets in morning light and my eyes fall in love with this glow. The breeze filters through my window screen, wraps her hands around my shoulders while I sit at my desk.  

An early gift of spring, it warms up the empty spaces in the house. We turn on the air when the brow sweats. Discover that what usually blows on us comfortable, dies under  blanket of winter.

When the man with the white beard and shiny head asks how to get to the attic, he walks through the door cautious, asks if any pets lurk behind doors, around corners. I tell him no, not since January. He stops, turns around and a drain unplugs to pooling thoughts lying stagnant in his mind since last week. They flow in a steady stream all over the space in my webby garage.

He explains that while his wife walks on cobblestones in England, he stays behind with their new puppy. How fifteen years earlier their dog dies in a heap on his leg, on vacation in another state, and they wait all this time to get another.

He pulls on the string to extract the ladder from the attic and says, “Well maybe I shouldn’t burden you with this story.”

 I tell him to go on.

“The puppy likes to play with the broom,” he says, “and I let him out, take the opportunity to sweep the floors because I want to keep things nice for my wife while she is gone. When I look up from the floor, through the open front door, I see him run into the road and collide with a car.”

He hasn’t told his wife. Doesn’t want to ruin her trip. But the grief, it hangs on him like sweat he can’t wash off.

The words tell the story he writes script in his head for days now. He’s memorized his part, the lines he will say to her when he picks her up at the airport on Monday.

“It’s not your fault you know,” I tell him. “I can tell you have been replaying what you saw like it might change something.”

And I think about Winston, the way he stopped breathing two months ago. How I twirled the hair on his ear between my fingers while I talked teary to the doctor, long after he passed. I can’t stop thinking about how we left him lying on a cold metal table in a smelly room that morning and went on living.

 “If I would have looked up just ten seconds earlier,” he regrets.

Maybe we think time is our servant with whom we give orders. If we could change the menu of time, life might wrap her arm around us on the couch instead of slapping us in the face with regret.

That if we hit the replay button enough times in our mind, she will magically conform to our image of the way she should serve us.

Like the way Mary watched her son’s hands and feet bleed from the nails driven into His flesh, so you and I, we don’t have to be shackled prisoner to sin. I imagine, she might have replayed those moments and asked time to serve her differently too.

How altered our lives would be, if time granted her request.

And just like spring showing up with all her resurrected glory before we put the blankets away, sometimes we can’t understand the holiness of time’s story. The way she does her work, speaks in a language only known to the one who created her.

 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you
1 Peter 1:20 ESV


May I whisper a surprise ending here? I just got a call from the workman and he shut his office door to tell me this: After all the prayers and worries about how he would share this news with his wife, the first thing she asked him, after she got off the airplane was, “Is the puppy dead.” Her spirit already knew what he was so worried to tell her. Amazing grace my friends, amazing grace.

Linking with these friends on Holy Wednesday and Maundy Thursday.

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  1. kd sullivan

    Regret does hit us that way, doesn’t it?..and it always blames and accuses. Thanks for reminding me of the deceit called regret. Grief can be good, it can cleanse for the future. Regret ruins any chance for a future because it confines the freedom He purchased at such a great price.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Great words to process Kim. Sometimes we just don’t have answers for why things happen in life. It’s what we call faith. 🙂

  2. Lyla Lindquist

    Time takes orders from none of us. I’m finding that not a lot of things take orders from us, really. It’s an illusion much of the time. We take it as it comes, that’s all. And often, most times, that’s enough. Beautiful reflection, Shelly.

    (Couldn’t bear to talk about your link and not get over here to see it. 😉 )

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thanks Lyla, it was fun to post in FB differently. I like it better. Appreciate your coming to visit. I know you have a choice.

      • Lyla Lindquist

        It’s an easy choice, Shelly. Truly.

  3. Amy

    There is something about replaying a scene in our mind that helps us “work it out” — I do believe that we either work it out, or it works its way into us and the regret is all the deeper and more painful. Amy

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Letting go and walking in freedom and trust. It’s really what faith is all about. I know it’s easier said than done on most days. Most of mine anyway.

  4. Lisa Easterling

    The poetry in your word-painting reaches through to me, brushes me in colors of springtime and all things new and I am reminded of what I’ve lost–but also what I still have and hold gratefully to my chest. I know the sting, the ache of regret, push it away from time to time, sigh sometimes and let it hang around for a few moments just for remembering…so I never forget to be grateful for what is still here. For who is still here. For the shining that has come through the scorching heat of refining on these rough edges of mine so deeply in need of His grace. I hold your soft thoughts up to His ear, asking Him to whisper hope and beauty into your heart to melt away the cold and warm you like April sunshine when spring comes early to erase the chill of a too-hard winter.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Lisa, thank you for your sweet words. I had to read them twice to take them all in. Rich thoughts from a tender heart. So glad you are here.

  5. Laura

    Another beautiful post. On regret. But the regret isn’t what hits me in this post. It’s taking the time to listen to this man. And even when he is done with his work, he is still in your thoughts. I admire that. And it’s the pets. The powerful joy they bring us and the deep grief their passing can cause us. Thinking about your dog and your husband’s allergies and parrots and the blessings. And uttering a prayer for this woman who lost her dog but still has a sweet, thoughtful husband who sweeps the floors.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Laura, I remember that sweet story you wrote about your parrot. Most everything in my life speaks to me these days. Even the workman in my garage all day today. Its what this writing does to me. Opens up places I didn’t know were even there. Thanks so much for joining the conversation, your contribution is always a pleasure.

  6. simplystriving

    I have nothing to add, Shelly. Just wanted you to know you blessed me with your words once again. Beautiful. Thank you, friend!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Aww, thanks Nikki. You bless me too sweet friend.

  7. tara pohlkotte

    oh. yes. we have to let go of our responsibility to the moments of the past. I too have left a friend on that cold table. hoping he knew my heart while still beating, lived with him there, in that moment.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Hope you are having a good time away Tara. Curious where you are, it sounds divine.

  8. patty

    Simply beautiful…..

  9. JoAnne Potter

    Yes, I wonder whether Mary would truly have wished for another fate, for some other way. But there never is another way, is there? How can we ever love or trust our God enough?
    Visiting from Getting Down…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      We can’t JoAnne, love Him enough. No matter how hard we try. I think it is the thing I have the hardest time accepting, this free gift in a world that says we must perform in order to be acceptable.

  10. consolationofmirth

    Beautiful. I can *feel* the regret. “Sometimes we can’t understand the holiness of time’s story.” I’ll be pondering this post all day. A blessing. Thank you. -Heather

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Heather, thank you and thank you for following this little community. Ever since you asked to be FB friends I have been wracking my brain, thinking we know each other. We have some friends in common. Forgive me for asking, but have we met in person before?

      • consolationofmirth

        We have. We were neighbors for a little while. I was on staff at Christ Church, and now living in NC. Your blog is incredible, I have a lot of catch-up reading to do. 🙂

  11. C.Allyn

    Hello Shelly,
    I do not want to hijack your blog but this is how we chat. Beautiful pictures by the way. I love the cherry blossoms. They were just beginning to bloom back in the day when we arrived back here in Vancouver. That was four years ago.
    Today, we received our court date. We fly to Ethiopia for May 7, which means we leave in less than a month. We are both happy and a little freaked out.
    I wanted to tell my friends.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Celeste, you can hijack my blog any time! 🙂 I am so excited for you. That date is two days after my twenty-second wedding anniversary and I will be in Scotland, thinking about you – I promise. I understand the fear of the unknown, being freaked out. God has this one, I know it. Thank you for letting me know. Prayers will ensue. You can also reach me at shelly@redemptionsbeauty.com or if that one isn’t working for some reason shellymiller@ec.rr.com.

  12. joepote01

    Regret is a funny thing, isn’t it?

    It helps us to learn…to not repeat the same mistake. And yet, if held onto too closely, it can ensnare us, to keep us from growing and living.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It is funny. I agree with you, sometimes it helps us learn, sometimes it keeps us stuck. For me it is a trust issue when I am stuck in regret. That I somehow have more control than He does in my life. Appreciate your thoughts Joe.

      • joepote01

        It always comes back to faith and trust, doesn’t it? Good point!

  13. turningnorth

    Regrets a funny thing. I look back now only to learn from the past, and try to leave everything else where it belongs..in the past.
    Beautiful post! I enjoyed reading it.

  14. Alecia

    Regret is a funny thing. Sometimes we learn from our regrets and they help us move forward to a better future. And sometimes it’s best to leave them alone.
    Beautiful post, I really enjoyed reading it!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      What you said here, is an echo of what I am hearing today about regret. I think you are right. I think the main thing about regret is that it can sometimes interfere with the gift of faith. That some things just cannot be explained.

  15. kd sullivan

    I just wanted to stop by and thank you for all of your kindness and support as I’ve been running Painting Prose!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh my, I think it should be the other way around Kim. I should be thanking you. Enjoyed guest posting at your place. It was a real marker in my writing journey as far as the feedback. I actually printed out all the comments. I wanted to remember them. And that moment.

  16. Beth

    I’m so glad that you listened to and comforted this man, so glad that God prepared her heart to hear that news, but so sorry to hear about your loss. I hope that helping him and hearing his story brought comfort to you as well.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I was thinking about the serendipity of it. That I wouldn’t have been sensitive to how he was feeling/grieving if I hadn’t just lost my own dog. God uses every moment of our lives for His good.

  17. Nancy Franson (@nancyfranson)

    Okay, I sort of needed you to write this about five years ago, when my daughter left for college and I kept replaying all the tapes in my head and leaning heavy into the moments of regret. But I guess reading it now, when I know the truth of what you’ve written here is probably better.

    When my husband and I were trying to adopt, we got a Labrador Retriever puppy which loved us unconditionally and which we could clean up after. For months after he was gone, I’d find myself looking out the kitchen window just to see where he was and what he was up to. Nothing like a good and faithful dog.

    And that postscript to the story? Yeah. This needs to be linked to Jennifer’s God-bumps community.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Nancy, I did link up with Jennifer. Love that community. And I have to admit that when I was looking at photos for this story, I came across several of my Winston. Had another good cry. Seeing him, made me miss him all over again.

  18. Kim Jones

    This is perfect! I honestly just finished a post on a difficult topic that I’m afraid I will later regret. Then I checked my feeds and found your post. Incredibly timely. Thank you!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Don’t you just love how God does that? Awesome!

  19. janaecharlotte

    I think this is a beautiful challenge and reminder that we do not have the relationship.control we’d always like. But all of us, all the details are woven in the Deep and life will return.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Control, it is the key word isn’t it? Thinking we have any. So good to hear from you Janae.

  20. Ms. Kathleen

    What a sweet heart touching story and how God does prepare our hearts. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day 🙂

  21. Jean Wise

    Isn’t it amazing when you share stories, become vulnerable with one another we all grow. Powerful post!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It is always amazing. Our stories have such power to heal, restore, give hope. I don’t know why we find it so surprising. We read stories in the bible every day! I guess that is how He meant it to be.

  22. Denise

    This blessed me.

  23. Emily Theresa Wierenga

    oh. my heart hurts. it’s so beautiful and sad, all of it…

  24. toshowthemjesus

    So often I’ve replayed memories. You are right, we try to force change into something that is out of our control. Oh how I want to be in control! Thanks so much!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too. It’s a daily lesson for me, this letting go.

  25. r.elliott

    oh yes…we think time as our servant to whom we give orders…when we life in the if onlys…what ifs…I think we are wanted to play God…we think we have a better way…regret robs us of a trusting faith. blessings~

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, I have to relinquish my regrets daily it seems. Oh, how thankful I am for His love over me.

  26. charinabrooks

    What a blessing Shelley, thank you!

  27. Dea

    Grace told her…but didn’t tell him. How much it must of caught him off guard. Overwhelmed him that he didn’t have to feel the whole weight of her grief in that moment. I can just see him nodding and wagging his head side to side and her, saying, “I already knew” and the two of them sharing the grief together.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I suppose there was a lesson for him in there somewhere, perhaps the reason why he wrestled with it all. At least that is the way it usually is for me. So nice to visit with you Dea.

  28. dukeslee

    Emily said it this was earlier in the comment box: Beautiful and sad. Yes, both. …

    And then, of course, I’m just all God-bumpy from the God-incidence of the way that she already knew, after she got off the plane.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Nancy wanted to make sure I linked this with you because of all the God bumps. Of course I would!

  29. Sandra Heska King

    Oh my, Shelley. Now you’ve got me remembering holding my little Scruffy cat just before we took her in and brought her back to bury in the yard. And our Rose Dog and before her Sweet Elsie who died at the vet’s while we were on a cruise. And of course, I replay all those moments from last year before my mother died.

    And time is holy because He holds it in His hands. Beautiful, bittersweet story. But the wife’s knowing. That had to be a grace whisper. How else would she know?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I re-live all the painful losses too. We never forget the one who brings us joy. And yes, truly a grace whisper here at the end.

  30. SoHelpMeTodd

    As I’ve gotten older (thankfully as getting older beats the alternative), my perspective on time has changed.

    Time now reminds me of one of our recent moves when I had a cart pile high with heavy boxes.

    Initially, I was straining under the weight and couldn’t get it to move out of the bowels of the truck towards the ramp.

    Then I got it going, only to lurch to a halt when the front wheels caught on the lip of the U-Haul.

    More pushing and straining, and the front wheels cleared the lip and headed down the ramp.

    Confident the back wheels would catch, I let it roll, only to discover that the momentum made the smaller back wheels irrelevant.

    The cart picked up speed down the ramp and crashed at the bottom; all the while I hung on desperately pulling against it trying to slow it down as I knew it was going to crash at the bottom.

    So goes my experience with time.

    In my younger years, I strained against the weight of time as it held me back from all the things I couldn’t wait to do; full-time job, car, my own place, girlfriend, wife, etc.

    I couldn’t wait to get my “real” life started and was confident that time would slow down once I started having kids.

    But somehow, I went from pushing against time to my current panic-stricken struggle to somehow make just a small dent in its forward momentum; the little wheels called “starting my real life” didn’t even register when I crossed the lip of adulthood.

    Now I find myself trying to will my mind to record audio and video of the normalcy of my current life; the sounds of the kids in their rooms, the noise of our table during meal time, the way each child seeks out the other members of the family to tell them “Good night” each night without prompting.

    I know all too soon those sounds will fade and my role in their lives will change.

    And to be perfectly honest, I hate it.

    I don’t want them to grow up and move out, I don’t want them to not depend on me, and I don’t want to have endless amounts of free time to do with as I please.

    I thoroughly enjoy just about every minute with my kids, and I fully realize and appreciate the blessing that is given that they are 17, 14, and 10 years of age.

    For me, the crash at the bottom of the ramp is when I have to let them go and find another purpose for my life.

    And It’s traumatic because I carefully stacked each box on the cart, and each box was full of things I treasure and took great care to safely pack so that it would make the journey free of damage.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Wow Todd, I think you should copy this comment and turn it into a blog post. So much to think about here and I can relate to what you are saying. I want to capture every moment, so aware of time slipping away like sand through my hands. Yet, He does have purpose beyond what we know and experience today. It’s bittersweet. So glad you stopped by. Your words are a bit of a sacred echo for me today.

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