Today I read that 13-year old Rebecca Black’s YouTube video, “Friday,” was the most watched music video of 2011. The upbeat song with excruciatingly awful lyrics went viral this year, drawing nearly 16 million viewers. The amateur internet sensation never claimed to be a serious recording artist. She was simply sharing her good-times attitude toward Friday as the launch pad to the weekend and, apparently, a lot of people wanted in on the party!
Ironically, half way around the world, Friday was getting a different kind of press. The independent state of Somoa, a group of islands in the South Pacific, announced it has cancelled Friday. (Can they do that?) Samoa wants to jump from one side of the International Date Line to the other this Friday, to be more in sync with its two biggest business partners – New Zealand and Australia. So–for this week only–Somoans will go to bed Thursday night and wake up to Saturday.
Frankly, I love Fridays. But we’ve all had days we wished we could cancel. They represent future deadlines for which we’re not prepared or past days we wish could exorcise from the public record or at least from our memory.
About a year ago I met a woman who, by her own account, had lived a good life filled with many happy days–except for one, a day I’m sure she wished she could have cancelled.
I met her while spending a summer morning visiting a retirement center. I was part of a group of ten people hoping to bring a little cheer to the center’s most vulnerable seniors. We took ten wheelchair-bound residents, along with a nurse, on an outdoor excursion around the Square of the State Capitol, then on to a lookout point overlooking Lake Monona, to watch the sailboats. I played wheelchair jockey to a shy, tiny woman who would soon celebrate her 100th birthday.
In an effort to engage her in light conversation, we talked about our husbands and what a blessing it was to have a good partner. She explained she married her husband right out of high school. They were married more years than she could remember and they loved each other madly. She couldn’t remember exactly when he died, but said they had never spent a day apart. Even when he was forced to go into a nursing home the last year of his life, she visited him every day. Well, every day except the day he died.
She began to cry, remembering with great pain that she was not there the one day she should have been. It haunted her. She felt she had let him down. It was a day she wished she could have erased forever.
The other wheelchair teams were already walking way ahead of us down the street, but I stopped and knelt down beside her. “God doesn’t blame you, you know. He’s quick to forgive and died to set us free from guilt and regret. If God has forgiven you, isn’t it time to forgive yourself? After all, you were by your husband’s side every day but one. He had a lifetime of memories of your faithfulness.” She squeezed my hand and whispered a quiet “thank you,” as I rummaged through my own mental lockbox, wondering if I, too, had unreleased regrets.
Regrets represent the deepest sighs of our soul. By definition, they are part of something that happened in the past, invisibly latching onto our spirit like tiny weights slowing our forward momentum.
Jerry Sittser in his book A Grace Disguised, argues persuasively for dealing with our regrets to avoid living in a perpetual state of guilt. “We think there is no forgiveness or redemption because we are deprived of the opportunity to right our wrongs.” But, he says, “Regret can lead to transformation if we view loss as an opportunity to take inventory of our lives.”
Traditionally, we think of January 1st as the perfect time to take just such an inventory. This year, look over your shoulder one last time and make sure there are no lingering regrets waiting to taint the year up ahead. Release them to God. Making things new is what He’s all about.