Decisions and regrets

David Epps's picture

I have been told that, when we look back over our lives and the paths we have taken, we do not generally regret the things we have done but the things we have not done. I think, for the most part, that is true.

Some of the decisions I made that I do not regret include:
• Playing football in junior high and in high school.
• Taking up the martial arts at the age of 15.
• Enlisting in the U. S. Marine Corps.
• Returning to college and graduate school.
• Getting married and having children and, eventually, grandchildren.
• Going into the ministry (usually, but there are days ...).
• Writing columns and articles.
• Riding a motorcycle.
• Traveling to such places as the Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Ireland, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Canada, the Netherlands.
• Planting a church even when I had no idea what I was doing.
• Becoming a police chaplain and a certified police officer.

And the list could go on and on.

While I do regret some of the things I did (thank God for confession, repentance, and forgiveness), I also regret that I did not do some things. Among them are:
• Not studying in high school. I had a great time, enjoyed high school, but hit far below my capabilities. I paid for it the first two quarters of college ... which is why I joined the Marines.
• Not running for student council in high school. The fear of failure kept me out of the race. I have discovered that fear keeps us from doing a great many things.
• Declining the opportunity to attend the prep school at Annapolis. While in the Marines, I was given a chance to go to a prep school for a year and, if I did well, receive an appointment to the Naval Academy. I never told my father. He would have thought I was crazy to pass up such an opportunity.
• Not accepting an appointment to attend the Tennessee National Guard OCS program. A few years after I had left the Marines and graduated from college, I enlisted in the National Guard. Cindy was in nursing school and I needed the extra money.

After I had been in the unit for a while (I had been named the training NCO), the commanding officer called me in to his office and offered to send me to Officer’s Candidate School. I would get a promotion at staff sergeant and would attend an 18-month program in Knoxville. Upon successful completion, I would receive a commission as a second lieutenant. I filled out the paperwork and was accepted. Because of family and work considerations, I declined.

The decisions I made to do certain things and the decisions I made not to do certain things determined the paths I took.

I suppose it is common to look back and wonder what life would have been like if I had or had not made the decisions I did. Authors and screenwriters have capitalized on this theme over and over. The “Back to the Future” trilogy comes to mind but, in the real world, there are no do-overs.

This is why parents harangue their teenagers mercilessly because they know how vital it is to make good decisions about even seemingly trivial matters.

Still, I have found that God can take the good — and the bad — and weave it all together so that the tapestry of life is good, satisfying, and beautiful. Life is what it is and there is the very real promise and possibility that tomorrow will be even better than today.

That’s not to say that decisions are irrelevant. Bad decisions can cause terrible harm and a great deal of pain. It is always better to make good decisions.

A new year lies just a few days ahead. There are decisions to be made and, hopefully, regrets to be avoided. It will be an interesting journey.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]

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