The patient had received bad news. I don’t know whether he asked for a chaplain or a nurse offered to call one. It didn’t matter much how I got here, what mattered was that I was here.
We talked for a long time. He had questions and doubts. It’s what you expect when the abstract sense of “I’ve got a few years” suddenly becomes “There’s nothing more we can do.”
I won’t tell you all we talked about, but I will tell you something I told him. As the words came out of my mouth, I knew they needed to go straight to my heart.
I said, “You don’t want to spend the rest of your short time worrying about relational regrets.”
Or something like that.
We all have relational regrets. Some about God, some about people.
I’m not talking about the kind of offenses that call for repentance and forgiveness. I’m talking about the things that the other person in the relationship didn’t even notice, but that our sense of shame or fear or legalism brings to the surface.
We should have spent more time with that person, we should have cared more about people in those situations. We should have paid attention to God more.
It’s possible that those are true statements. What would be more helpful is a word other than “should”. Rather than saying “should”, perhaps we could describe all of what was happening: “I could have spent more time with that person, but at the time I was in the middle of two other crises and was responsible for leadership at work and for my mother’s care.” “I could have attended church more often, but I was shamed out of the church I had been attending, and there weren’t many options, but I’ve been talking with God about it pretty regularly.”
There are other expectations that we wrestle through in our lives:
- “A good son ought to act like a Hallmark Card”
- “Praying every day will make God happier.”
- “Being the last one out of the building is more responsible and humble.”
- “Remembering birthdays on Facebook is the minimum measure of politeness in modern society.”
If you don’t know what I mean, don’t worry about it. You’re fine. But if you are like me, listen again to my words. “Don’t spend the rest of your short time worrying about relational regrets.” Spend it differently. Starting now.