Some years ago, while I was pastoring on Grand Manan, a beautiful little island in the Bay of Fundy, we had several youth groups come over to help us with vacation Bible school programs. During one of these trips, we found a bottle with a message in it. The note was faded but legible, from someone located in Maine. They asked the finder to call and even included an American dollar bill.
For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t do it. In retrospect, it would have been fun for the group to experience, and great for the person who launched the bottle. But I didn’t do it. It sat on my shelf, and after a year or two, it seemed too late and pointless.
I re-found the bottle not long ago as I sorted through our effects in the basement and once again felt the regret of not having made the phone call then. I pulled the note out and unrolled it to find that the ink was no longer readable. It was a reminder that sometimes widows of opportunity close, and I missed that one.
In the grand scheme of things this situation probably doesn’t rate very highly, but that’s not always the case. It is possible to live with regret over much more serious situations.
There are chances to take advantage of an opportunity. To act boldly. To take courage. Call it seizing the day. It can be risky to step out in a new venture, new relationship, new job, or even to share Jesus. But there are risks to inaction, also.
There are times to do something we’ve been putting off – to make a phone call or visit, take a class, enroll in a program, or volunteer.
And then there are times to turn a situation, to apologize, make things right, make peace, forgive. Someone has to do something or the situation continues unchanged until it is too late. I think regret is hardest knowing we could have done something about it, but didn’t.
I don’t like the word regret. In my mind it denotes pain. Now, while pain can be a pretty good motivator, it’s still pretty negative.
I like the way the apostle Paul thinks about these things. Instead of concentrating on pain and regret, he focuses on the future and the possibility of opportunity. Regret is backward facing, always looking to the past. Opportunity is forward facing, looking ahead for ways to make a difference.
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,…” Galatians 6:10*
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity,…” Ephesians 5:15-16
I’ll leave you with these words, hoping that it helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Married to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published May 9, 2016. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com