On my reading stack this month, Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments by Sister Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP. I’d like to share of the true nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from Sr. Kathryn, one of my true heroes of faith.
Sr. Kathryn had my full attention as I read in her book’s introduction, ”You have not made this
journey yet, so you may have trouble believing the light shines on the other side of the darkness
of regret. But I can tell you from experience that it does. God wants to heal your heart and bring you into the light of his love.”
God makes four Promises to the person haunted with regrets:
First promise: “I want to throw you a party.”
Second promise: “Look at Me, and you will know who you are.”
Third promise: “You see failure, I see your future.”
Fourth promise: “My light will radiate from you for all the world to see (p. 4).”
And if that wasn’t enough, then she writes,
“A piece of advice. Simply reading this book will not lead you to healing. You can’t make a trip
somewhere by just reading about it. Spiritual journeys are not logical expositions. They are
messy things of the heart. This journey through your regrets to peace will be like going up a
mountain. Just as mountain roads don’t lead straight to the top but circle around to the summit
gradually, in the same way, the material in this book will lead you on a gentle, gradual, cyclical
journey (p. 5).”
Okay then, I am ready. I have lots of regret in my life — mostly around my parenting and the
poor care I’ve taken of my body. I’m delighted to have four promises to look forward to as I
journey deeper (beyond my skimming through to discern if this book was for me.) I trust Sr.
Kathryn’s ability to lead me to them through the power of the Holy Spirit and her beautiful gift of insightful writing.
How often I have thought back to my youth and wished I could have a do-over and make different
choices. As often as I have thought of that journey back in time to my youth, the real regret sits
with my parenting memories. These are even more riddled with the wish and desire to go
back to when my children were little. I long to undo and then redo so many decisions made
during those precious years with my three children. However, that is not how life works. I cannot go back; I need to move forward. If I do not, I will never fully realize the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
The circumstances of my present life, and those of my regret-riddled past memories, are thankfully not
all we are given by our loving God. I want to be free from those regrets and sadnesses so that I
can be fully open to the blessings and graces God has for me, preparing my heart for our true
home, Heaven. I believe I can get there; I’m just not sure how. Hence, my great delight in finding Reclaim Regret.
At the book’s onset, Sr. Kathryn introduces praying through the stories of the Gospel as a
strategy that heals our hearts. She provides a simple guide to enter deeply into scripture by
using your imagination to place yourself in the event. She explains: “If it is helpful, feel free to
come back to this page whenever you meditate with the Scripture stories throughout the book
(p.15).” I dog-eared the page because I plan to come back often.
My problem is not that I have one big regret, but a million little regrets like the shattered pieces
of the bowl pictured on the cover of Reclaim Regret. To become whole again, I feel like I need to go back and find all the little pieces and then use the grace of God to glue them back together.
In Part 1, Sr. Kathryn calls upon us to uncover patterns in our regrets, which will help
us to unravel our problems. Discovering the patterns means looking deep within our memories
without fear. We need to take Jesus along on this journey to help us carry these
crosses, most of which we should have put down long ago. Sr. Kathryn offers a most powerful exercise in order to begin to move through these memories and past regrets.
I can see now why she says this may take a few go-arounds. Reclaiming Regrets is not a “read from cover to cover and be done with it” book. I love that I can return to this book again and again. Not only is it encouraging to realize that making headway with my regrets is a process that may take multiple efforts and time; but also, I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. The steps outlined in the book repeat throughout each chapter – a prayer moment, reflections,
and thought-provoking text that brings us out from the darkness into a
place where we are ready to participate in the exercises she provides in each chapter. I personally love to write, so I have decided to utilize a journal to record this journey of reclaiming my regrets.
I am excited by the possibility of not just moving past those regrets but channeling
them into a more abundant life, the life Jesus came to offer us. I have found that hindsight is the most amazing gift from God. When I think my efforts have yielded no fruit, the gift of hindsight shows me the blessings and even the changes that my surrender to God always brings.
One of the stories included was the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman. This is one of my
absolute favorite stories from the gospels. There are very few women we encounter in the
gospels who have as many regrets as the Samaritan woman. She not only has many husbands but she also
clearly lives in the shadow of shame: she comes to the well at a time of the highest
heat when she’s almost assured no one else will be there.
Sr. Kathryn writes, “He spoke gently, without shaming her or laughing at her. Just a simple
statement of the truth. The man’s respect for her pierced the dull scaffolding the woman had built up around her shaky insecurity. She felt a collapse. In one great, heaving sigh of relief, it fell at her feet — and his. The sword of his truthfulness had cut through the deadly lethargy of the buried lies she had been telling herself, and now she stood courageously before this tender man whose name she did not even know. At last. As her tears fell, the waters within began to bubble up and trickle into her inner desert. How her spirit craved this water!”
This is where Jesus longs to bring each and every one of us. He longs to bring out
the truth of our past gently, so he can heal and give us the freedom to move into a more hopeful
future. Her past had dictated so much of her present. Going to the well, she felt
defeated, stuck in her circumstances, shunned and probably very lonely. I truly love how much
Jesus longs to love, to free and to heal us.
In Revelation, we are told that God can make all things new — when we let him. It may take time
and be filled with one step forward two steps back. But I believe in God’s promises. And I will sit
with the meditations that come at the end of the book and let the Lord heal me. I will bring them with me to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; I will open them for my morning prayer. I will even use them on a journey through Lent this coming year.
The more time I spend letting the Lord love me and guide my heart through the mountain of regret
that I hold, the more I will see his miraculous Grace at work; stone by stone taking that
mountain of memories I’ve stockpiled down to the proverbial molehill.
If you would like to see God healing your life’s disappointment and bring you a new future; I highly recommend that you get a copy of Reclaim Regret.