Thursday, 28 October 2010

Lament for a son

I don't want to waste these years with my wife and young family. Chloe read me this the other day and it made me check again my priorities the amount of quality time I am giving. This is written by Nicholas Wolterstorff who writes about the loss of his son.

"What do I do now with my regrets - over the time I neglected to take him along hiking, over the times I placed work ahead of being with him, over the times I postponed writing letters, over the times I unreasonably got angry with him - over all the times I hurt him, times I noticed the hurt and times I didn't but should have. Over the the times he was sad and I saw, but did little or nothing to console. Over all the times I did not prize the inscape of the image of God in our midst which was he; and over all the other times I did but did not tell him so. Over all the times he was something wonderful or did something fine and I was oblivious or silent - sometimes because my own projects were my single minded pursuit, sometimes because my own worries were my single minded concern. And sometimes because I did not want his excellence to "go to his head."

What do I do with this basket of regrets? What do I do with my regret that I did not warn him more often and more firmly with the dangers of climbing? When the person is living we can make amends - can say sorry, if our pride is not too large to swallow; can change our ways, if our projects are not loved more than the other person. But when the person is dead, what do we do with our regrets?

A friend warned me against this question. Don't rehearse your regrets, he said. But they come to mind unrehearsed. Should I try to stop them? Should I undertake some discipline of memory to stop this parade of all I wish had been different? 

No I will not do that. Putting it out of my mind is not my way.

I believe God forgives me. I do not doubt that. The matter between me and God is closed. But what about the matter between me and Eric? For my regrets remain. What do I do with my God-forgiven regrets? Maybe some of what I regret doesn't even need forgiving; maybe sometimes I did as well as I could. Full love isn't always possible in this fallen world of ours. Still, I regret.

I shall live with them. I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, to be numbered among my self inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them. I shall allow the memory to prod me into doing better with those still living. And I shall allow them to sharpen the vision and intensify the hope for that Great Day coming when we can all throw ourselves into each other's arms and say, "I'm sorry."

The God of love will surely grant us such a day. Love needs that."

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