Leaving regret behind
I prayed to see that I was the product of good, not the victim of tragedies that I was condemned to relive over and over.
Originally published for the Christian Science Sentinel online on January 5, 2023
I lived in a war zone when I was a young child. Amid much tragedy, I had to leave my home country with my family for a new country, with many changes to my way of life. It was not an easy transition, and I continually looked back to my early childhood days with regret. I felt out of place in this new land with its strange language and unfamiliar culture.
Years passed, and regret faded into the background—until the same war situation arose in this new country. By then a young married woman, I was again brutally uprooted and forced to move, this time to another continent. It seemed the cycle of destruction, loss, grief, and regret was beginning again.
But by this time I had found Christian Science, and this caused me to question the validity of my human history. Christian Science reveals man, the true nature of each of us, as spiritual, never encased in matter. So, I realized that bad memories cannot depict the truth of being and are no part of our real identity as a child of God. They are false records of an existence God knows nothing about.
How often do we look back in life? Perhaps we regret things we have done or things we think we should have done. We cherish memories of good times and tremble at memories of tragic times. In some cases, we would love to wipe away memories too painful to keep.
But painful experiences are based on a belief of life in and of matter—the tragedies and comedies from a counterfeit view of life, with information derived from a material and limited source. They never leave the realm of belief in a material and temporal life apart from God, Spirit.
The only authentic man is God’s image and likeness, the reflection of all the good that is God. This true selfhood never leaves the realm of the infinite—the realm of God, who is divine Love, Life, Truth. Here, man is infinitely comforted and loved, led by God “beside the still waters” (Psalms 23:2).
What God knows as His own spiritual, perfect expression is all that is real right now or ever.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, next to a marginal heading “Immortal memory,” Mary Baker Eddy writes, “In Science, all being is eternal, spiritual, perfect, harmonious in every action” (p. 407). What God knows as His own spiritual, perfect expression is all that is real right now or ever. “Immortal memory” has no association with time—with a past or a present. It is not dependent on a set of circumstances or a sequence of events, nor is it filtered through a mortal person who has lived those events. Rather, it is the revelation of the infinite, eternal perfection created and maintained by God. How freeing is that!
Regret is related to an old French word meaning to bewail the dead. In some ancient cultures it was customary to hire mourners to bewail the dead publicly and vocally, to show everyone how valued the person was and how distraught the people left behind were. Perhaps, when we regret doing or not doing something, we are expressing a similar sentiment. Are we not looking back at what was and mourning what could have been instead of acknowledging the perpetual good that is continually unfolding? Are we not bewailing the caterpillar instead of celebrating the butterfly?
The Bible says, “That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). I often wondered what it meant for God to require that which is past. Then I found this in Science and Health: “The caterpillar, transformed into a beautiful insect, is no longer a worm, nor does the insect return to fraternize with or control the worm. Such a backward transformation is impossible in Science” (p. 74).
This said to me that God requires our willingness to let thought be transformed from a “caterpillar” stage into the beautiful, immortal “butterfly” state and that a backward transformation is impossible. Science and Health tells us, “Material beliefs must be expelled to make room for spiritual understanding” (p. 346). And once expelled, do we need to regret the old beliefs—to bewail and wish to return to them? No! Our thought has evolved to a new height and has left the cocoon behind.
If we forever mourn (or wish to return to) a human past, we are doing what the children of Israel were doing in the wilderness—looking back to the relative security of servitude in Egypt instead of appreciating the wonderful proofs of God’s ever-presence and goodness that Moses showed them. It took them forty years to come out of that barren wilderness of matter-based thinking into the spiritual reality of the Promised Land.
In my own experience, I found that looking back continually to what had been—especially revisiting and holding on to the wrongs—was preventing me from gaining in my understanding and demonstration of spiritual freedom and progress. So I prayed to see that since God is the only Mind, is All, and is all good, I could never be influenced by anything not good and not coming from that one Mind—I could not be tempted to continually look back; locked in a cycle of destruction, grief, and regret; or continually thrown back into recollections of violence and wrongs that had never originated in God, good. I was the product of good, not the victim of tragedies that I was condemned to relive over and over.
With that recognition, the fear of and the regret for an old life began to drain away little by little. Through prayer, I let go of that mortal record, stopped sympathizing with that war orphan forever rehearsing the pain, and stopped dwelling on what I felt should have been. And that internal pain I had carried for so long began to fade away, along with many physical ailments I had not even realized were part of the same false sense of my identity. I accepted my true, spiritual identity—the new man that St. Paul describes when he encourages us to “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10).
Years later, when I went through Primary class instruction in Christian Science, I felt that this healing was complete, with no regrets or backward glances at a former life. The last of the physical ailments disappeared, and I shut the door on those sad walks down memory lane.
These words from a hymn illustrate the joy of replacing regret with an acceptance of God’s eternal good:
Hasten on from grace to glory,
Armed with faith and winged with prayer;
Heaven’s eternal day before you
God’s own hand shall guide you there.
So fulfill your holy mission,
Safely pass through pilgrim-days,
Hope shall grow to full fruition,
Faith to sight and prayer to praise.
(Henry Francis Lyte, Christian Science Hymnal:
Hymns 430–603, No. 518, adapt. & alt. © CSBD).