I spent much of my adult life striving, planning, and reaching for self-imposed goals. For many years, I tried to find my worth through my career and achievements. I was lured by the false premise that the so-called American dream must be attained in one’s lifetime for that life to be worthwhile. A schedule filled with busyness, activities, and frenzy shows that life is full and rewarding. Right?
I’ve come to realize there’s a difference between an accomplished life and a significant life. I’m not saying that accomplishment is a negative goal, but that a life of significance first strives to glorify God. When our accomplishments honor God they are significant.
Does our striving for significance mean we’re seeking perfection? Only Jesus lived a perfect earthly life because, while Jesus was fully human, He was also fully divine. Jesus wasn’t just a good person who did good deeds and cared about others. He was God in the flesh.
In our humanness, we are incapable of achieving perfection during our earthly lives. But peace results when we strive to obey and glorify God through our accomplishments. While achieving perfection in our lifetime is not possible, I believe peace is an achievable goal.
The formula for peace is simple in theory but not in practice: seek God’s will in all things, confess to those we have harmed and seek their forgiveness, confess our sins to God, and ask for God’s forgiveness. Though challenging, these goals are achievable. But there’s one more part to the formula, and I’m convinced it is the most challenging: forgive ourselves.
Recently, my sister and I were discussing regret. Both of us harbor regrets regarding our deceased parents. I don’t think we’re alone in this feeling. The problem with regret is that it holds the power to block peace. Regret is possibly the most difficult emotion to resolve. Usually, the people we harmed—or think we harmed—are gone from this earthly life, and we are left with if-onlys. If only I had said or done this or that. If only I hadn’t said or done this or that.
I’ve learned that, although it may be too late to resolve our if-onlys with the people we’ve harmed, it’s never too late to seek God’s forgiveness. Believers are promised that nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even regret. When we harbor regret, it’s difficult to accept that God’s forgiveness is both free and final. We keep taking back the regret and carrying it around like a teenager’s backpack filled with heavy books. Regret weighs us down, causing us to drag through our days, maybe even keeping us awake at night, until finally after the tenth time or hundredth time of shaming ourselves, we accept God’s forgiveness, forgive ourselves, and embrace the peace that God has been offering all along.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com