Daily Reflection – Regret

I read a very interesting article about regret last night. I read it again just now, and could strongly relate to many of the ideas described. I would only take issue with one line – where the phrase “saints or stupid” is used, I would replace it with “lacking empathy or self-awareness.”

Apart from that I couldn’t articulate the concepts better than the professionals quoted in the article, so I’ll just add a few comments from my own experience.

I don’t think I’m unique in having a complicated relationship with regret. Since my teens I’ve swung between times of being crippled by it so that life feels unbearable, and moments when I’ve genuinely said “I can’t regret anything, because if I’d done anything different I wouldn’t be who I am, where I am, now.”

In the latter case, those were days when I could truly say “I like myself”, which hasn’t always been so. But even then, I think it’s very rarely that I could have said “I love myself,” and I’m beginning to understand how difficult it is to really love others, and receive their love, if you don’t love yourself. The golden rule (Luke 6:31) points to that truth. So even at those times I should have regretted that I didn’t see myself as God does.

And anyway, as so often, reality lies somewhere between those extremes of perception. None of us are perfect, and so it’s necessary that we must have regrets. Think about it. With no regret, there would never be a reason to say “sorry” to anyone. Who among us has never needed to apologise?

But equally, regret can be misguided. As the article says, and I’m learning, we make decisions based on the information we have at the time. If we make a wise and kind decision then there is no point in regretting it later, even if another may seem better in hindsight, even if we need to apologise later for hurt that was caused. We will be better informed next time.

Sometimes though, our motives are wrong, and our decision reflects that. It is healthy to regret those moments, and to learn from them.

I think the best we can do is to examine our motives and try to make those wise, kind decisions at every opportunity. And to accept with grace and humility that sometimes we’ll fail. I have a strong tendency to over-analyse decisions, which leads to anxiety and inertia. I need to learn to trust my instincts and my conscience more willingly, as my self-doubt is one of my chief causes of regret.

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A Glimpse of Cross Vision

I would be very interested to read your comments on this article, Frank Viola’s interview with Greg Boyd:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/gregboydnew/

It’s a lengthy interview, in which Greg discusses some of the ideas in his latest books, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God and its shorter version Cross Vision.

The principal argument of Boyd’s work is that when you read the whole Bible – specifically the Old Testament – through the lens of the cross, all kinds of problems we have with the picture of an angry, violent OT God can disappear. In Boyd’s words

On the cross, God stoops to meet us, and to enter into solidarity with us, right where we are at, which is in bondage to sin and to Satan. And he does this to free us and to bring us where he wants us to be, which is united with him in Christ.  The cross is thus the paradigmatic example of God mercifully stooping to accommodate people in their fallen conditioning.

In a similar way, every time we prove ourselves incapable of living up to God’s ideal behaviour, God will Himself “stoop to accommodate” us. This even extends to allowing Himself to be portrayed in the Bible as something other than His “true” self, because culturally His people have been conditioned to believe that this is what a god is “supposed” to look like.

In fact, many passages that exalt Yahweh as a warrior contain phrases from songs that Israel’s neighbors sang to their own warrior deities. The biblical author just switched out the name of the pagan god and replaced it with Yahweh.

After reading the whole interview a few times I’m left with several thoughts. The first is that I want to read Cross Vision, and understand the reasoning – scriptural, cultural and logical – that lies behind Boyd’s claim. Because I very much want this to be true. To finally have a solution to one of the most troubling issues of Christian (and Jewish and Muslim) faith would be beyond exciting.

And that leads me to my next thought, which is that when something seems to be too good to be true, it usually is. This lens of the cross, while on the surface it seems totally Biblical, is surely just too simple. I find myself returning to Isaiah 55.

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

Isaiah 55:8-9

And the most troubling thought of all is this: if I can use God’s “stooping to accommodate” as an explanation for the particular “atrocities” mentioned in the book, why can’t I use it to explain anything at all that I don’t like? And how can we tell the difference between the times that God is pleased with an action and the times that he is accommodating us? And how does this then apply outside of scripture, in our daily lives? What can we trust to be God’s genuine will? Do we just follow the 10 commandments and for everything else do our own thing, confident that God will accommodate us?

There are answers to these questions, the simplest one being that if the Holy Spirit dwells within us we can have confidence in what He says to us. But nevertheless I think Greg Boyd’s ideas are just as likely to unsettle as to comfort us, and if I can be sure of one thing, it’s that his books will not end the debate about the “Old Testament God”.

But I’m very much looking forward to reading more.