Sitting on the lanai of our lodging in Kihei, Hawaii, last month, I’m immediately transported to 2010 when we lived here courtesy of the United States Air Force. Tagging along with my husband who attends a conference here each year, this is the first time I’ve been back since we called Hawaii home. Staring at the sea, I imagine my three young children inside chatting about Phineas and Ferb as they ate their breakfast of oatmeal and drank their cups of pog. (Passion fruit-orange-guava juice — YUM.)
Later, while my husband is conferencing with folks, I drive down S. Kihei Rd. in search of a coffee shop to tackle my long list of work chores. As I approach Alanui Ke’ali’i St., I default to the familiar pull to turn right towards the neighborhood we lived in years ago. But instead of turning left onto our old street, I glance right at the kids’ former elementary school. And then my stomach drops to my ankles as regret filled the space . . .
Every whipstitch, I hear someone say, “I have no regrets for my choices or how I’ve lived!” No regrets? I think to myself. You can honestly say that for every decision you’ve made, you wouldn’t like a redo? An opportunity to go back and choose differently?
Let me say, your girl here has regrets. In particular, I have parenting regrets. I regret taking a hard stance on things that weren’t a big deal. On the other hand, I regret not taking a few things more seriously than I did at the time. Or rather, not looking harder to see the full picture as it was. An example of this? Our last year we lived in Hawaii, our kids attended an elementary school I’ve come to regret — the one I drove by last month. While my daughter had a fantastic experience there, my sons were bullied terribly. Since I regularly volunteered my time teaching music to my kids’ classrooms in that school, I should’ve been more aware of what was going on. Alas, I didn’t know the full extent of the bullying until after we moved away.
This made finishing our season in Hawaii feel like a disastrous fumble at the end of a game that snatched a win right out of our hands. And it tasted like someone had spiked our pog juice with a good deal of vinegar. It made an overall great experience land on a bitter note.
It’s important to add that today, my sons are doing phenomenally well. They give virtually no thought to that time and certainly don’t see themselves as victims. However, I do think about that year from time to time, and seeing that school again brought a fresh tidal wave of regret that my young sons put up with so much. So, there I sat in my car, floating around in an ocean of sadness over something that happened thirteen years ago.
And that’s when I felt the Lord tell my spirit, “Okay, Kristen, we’re gonna deal with this right now.”
Compelled to read Genesis, I look up the verses where Joseph, years after being sold into slavery by his own brothers, tells these same men,
“Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (Gen. 45:5 NIV).
In other words, Joseph tells his brothers not to grieve the choice they made years before because he could see now how God was working behind the scenes all along.
I responded out loud, “Okay, Lord. I believe this. But what do I do with the lingering regret that I can’t seem to shake?”
And that’s when I received a picture of swimming in the ocean as a particularly strong wave comes toward me.