regret

People have asked me lately about regret.  

Do I regret our life overseas?  If I had it to do over again, would I?

 photo:  Andy Bruner, shipboard sunset, Solomon Islands, 2002

photo:  Andy Bruner, shipboard sunset, Solomon Islands, 2002

That's a hard question, because I believe so passionately in redemption.  How can you regret the greatness of redemption?

And yet.  

Redemption doesn't subvert my responsibility.  Redemption is no excuse for avoiding the Fearless Moral Inventory, or Making Amends.  

This year has been so hard for us as a family, and I know for sure that some of the hard things we've gone through are directly a result of the trauma we suffered overseas.

The truth is, I made choices that placed my children in situations that may cause them painful consequences for the rest of their lives.

Somebody said, "But it was God's will!"  

Really?  I wonder about that sometimes.  How much was God's will, and how much was mine?

Recently, there was a discussion at Mango Tree Reflections about how living overseas affects children.  Someone said in a comment that missionary parents and narcissistic parents have this in common:  they put the needs of the parent above the needs of the child.

While that may not be true for every missionary parent, I certainly see myself there.  

I needed to be good enough for God to love me.  

I thought being a missionary was going to get me there.  

That was my need.  I put it first.

Somebody else said, "But the New Testament Project!  Wasn't that worth the sacrifice?"

Well, I wonder about that at times, too.  What's a reasonable sacrifice, and what gets over the line into crazy land?

One of my besties, after reading As Soon As I Fell, said, "I don't want to make you feel bad, but when I read this book, I thought, good grief, this family has been through so much trauma!"

And she's totally on target.

Now, I don't think that staying here in America would have protected my kids from all harm.  It's just that living overseas set us up for some really specific things with really specific consequences.

A buttload of grief as we suffered loss after loss after loss.  A bunch of anxiety around transition.  A certain mistrust of authority figures, frankly, because authority figures (self included) have not always been trustworthy.

No matter how much I wanted my kids to be happy, no matter how hard I tried to shield them, those things happened.  

I "happened" some of that stuff.  Other people happened some of that stuff.  Life happened some of that stuff.  

And as my kids get older, as we get beyond the happy beach photos, and experience the chemical impact of the trauma?

I HATE IT.  It rips my heart out.

I said to a friend the other day, this is how it's going to go down:  all our kids are going to meet up in the lobby of the therapist's office and go on to write memoirs about how we screwed up.  What were we thinking???

I just don't always see the big picture very well, when life is particularly painful.  

In As Soon As I Fell, I talk about what Henri Nouwen says, about being grateful for everything, because everything is part of what God uses to bring us home.  He says, if we're only partially grateful for the past, we can't really be fully hopeful about the future.  We're always going to be stuck trying so hard to make things as good as we can, so we can be happy and hopeful.  And that's just not going to work.  

Life is too broken.  We are too broken.  We just don't get to have that kind of control.

We've got to learn to be grateful that God makes redemption out of our mess.

And I can really get that for myself.  I can look at the redemption in my own life and be so, so grateful.

But when it's my kids.  And when I am part of the brokenness for them.

That is an ache in my heart.   

It's just painful, people.  I wish I were a better person, and I am not.  I wish I were a perfect parent for my children, and I am not.  I hate that.

I need to remember all the time what Anne Lamott says, that the difference between me and God is that God never thinks he's me.  

Part of not thinking I'm God is knowing that I can't screw things up beyond recognition.  I don't have that kind of power.  And yet I'm still responsible for myself and my choices.  

That just makes my head hurt and drives me crazy.

Mary Oliver said, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Well, I think I plan to screw up some more, given my record so far.  I don't want to screw up, but it seems inevitable as long as I live in this body.

I plan to love my family the best I can right now.  Later on, I'll know better, and I'll do better.

I plan to live beyond regret, trusting in redemption, making amends wherever I can.  

I plan to keep trusting the Love, so I can try to live in grace and freedom, without (too much) fear.

Meanwhile, I plan to listen to this song again.  Cuz I need it.

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