Deepest Regrets and Beautiful, Beautiful

The song Beautiful, Beautiful by Francesca Battistelli triggered that place in my heart of deepest regret.

Don’t know how it is You looked at me
And saw the person that I could be
Awakening my heart
Breaking through the dark
Suddenly Your grace

When I take a straight look at my life, I don’t know how God’s grace could have reached me.  Only when I look at God do I know.

The last sermon my father preached was a drawn-out misery.  He was subbing for our pastor.  My father was actually an ordained minister, even though he worked as a computer programmer.

I had no idea what was wrong with him, but I was terribly embarrassed.  He couldn’t make any words fit together to make sentences, and his voice sounded like his throat had almost swelled shut.  He had an expression on his face like he hadn’t drank water for three days.

I remember sitting there thinking of how miserable this was making my life, and thinking up ways I could separate myself from him in the minds of all my church friends.

When the diagnosis came in that he had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and the rotten ways I had treated my father bled into my memory, I grew to want to be the one to have the disease.  I came to see I was diseased, far worse than my father.

Now, back in time.  My second semester or so of college, I met a boy I loved, James.  We had a class together and I felt a sweetness of Christ in him that I can’t give words to.  He had a degenerative muscle disease.  I remember the compassion my father had for him when the three of us went out to Wendy’s for lunch one day.  Little did my father know at the time that he, too, had a degenerative muscle disease.

After the semester ended, I lost touch with James.  I wanted to be with him, but I knew he was sick.  And I didn’t want to go through that heartache.

I saw him when I graduated from that 2-year college.  He was in a wheelchair.   Not a semester later, my father was diagnosed.

It was through that hurt that I got back in touch with James.  We emailed each other a few times.  My father died.  I wanted to be with James.  But James was dying.  And I didn’t feel like I could “put myself through” that pain.

He sent me an email two or three days before he died telling me that his heart was weak.

I did everything I could to forget my failure as a human being, much less as a daughter to my father or a friend to James.  I blocked out my failure to James and some of my unkind acts towards my father for years.  But slowly, over time, memories came back.

One day I realized the life I could have had if I had lived in love rather than fear and selfishness.  I hated myself so much I didn’t have a clue how to cope.  Most of my friends saw me as a sweet and caring person—and I knew what a lie this was.   It made it so much worse to know how highly people thought about me.

I began avoiding people.  I had trouble looking people in the face.  I stayed behind the four walls of my house as much as possible.  I stopped hoping I could somehow make things right.

I thought about my dad and James being together in Heaven, and, as I grew to see the utter desolation of my own life, I failed to see how I could ever go to a Heaven with them.  The most I hoped for was to hide in a celestial closet somewhere.  Seeing them happy through a keyhole would be enough.

Some very interesting things happened over the next several months.  My father’s death became a crutch for me to excuse all my insufficiency until even I got sick of this truly pathetic lie.  I struggled with such poor self-worth, it was a very good thing I wasn’t in any serious dating relationships.  I would probably have picked someone to marry who hated me to serve myself right.

My regret became the vantage point I imagined God had as He looked down on my life.  Surely God saw me as I saw myself—only worse, because I could give some stupid justifications to keep myself from total despair, but God saw me without any such lies.

I didn’t think anything was strong enough to make it through the bricks of regret I’d built up, but Christ’s love made it through.   And brick by brick, Christ broke away the wall, not so that He could get through, but so that I could get out.

There is nothing in my bricks or the mortar with which I sealed them that would allow for an escape.  But God is stronger than even my worst regrets.

Now I believe I can face James and my father in Heaven . . . because the same Christ who saved them has saved me.   And, as much as I know it is so undeserved . . .

I actually think my father’s petitions to God for me all the time he was on earth were answered, and that, when he got to Heaven, he was overjoyed to know this, rather than ready to change his mind and ask God to send me to Hell.

And one day I came to believe that James asked God to keep me from being involved in any relationships for as long as I hated myself and looked only for my own destruction.  I don’t know why James would do such a thing for me when I do not with one speck deserve such kindness, other than that James was always ruled by grace, and I am sure that has not changed.

Why share all this?  I suppose first to prevent any admirers of me, and second, because I believe I am not the only person with brick walls.  My prayer for you is that, if you have a brick wall separating you from the grace of Christ, that Christ will pull that wall down, brick by brick, until you can see that, beyond all human reasoning, beyond all our understanding . . . there is hope for you, too.

Like sunlight burning at midnight
Making my life something so
Beautiful, beautiful
Mercy reaching to save me
All that I need
You are so
Beautiful, beautiful

from Beautiful, Beautiful by Francesca Battistelli

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”  Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:47-48, NLT)

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