Nothing Is Wasted
When I was in high school, I remember studying a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier entitled "Maud Muller" that contained a line that resonated with me so much I've remembered it time and again for most of my life:
"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"
This line speaks of the power of regret and how it can wield that power over us if we let it. Regret is a powerful emotion. It is one of the most powerful things we experience, primarily because it affects many aspects of our lives.
When we regret our mistakes or missteps, it keeps us looking in the rearview mirror of our lives rather than being present in our present or looking forward in hope to the future.
We can also fall into the trap of wallowing in misery over the time we believe we wasted because we went down a wrong path or made a poor decision. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with church members and friends who have shared precisely that.
God knows I've had those same feelings, too. Hindsight might very well be imbued with 20/20 vision, as the old platitude proclaims, but it can also become so wrapped up in regret that we struggle to move forward because we're too busy feeling despair over what could have been.
I read an excellent quote by the acclaimed sculpture artist Rodin recently that spoke to me:
Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.
I'm not an expert on Rodin by any stretch of the imagination, but I have spent some time at the Rodin museum in Paris, and I've always found myself drawn to any Rodin piece in any museum I've visited.
His works emerge roughly and dramatically out of the bronze from which they are carved. The figures in his sculpture appear to be clawing their way out of it at times.
I have seen enough of Rodin's work to realize that there were undoubtedly mistakes in their creation, inadvertent cuts, and perhaps even outright changes needed to fashion the sculpture into a work of art.
Which makes Rodin's quote seem even more amazing to me.
This was an artist that understood that nothing is wasted if you choose to see it that way. It is time well spent when you can use even your worst mistakes or poor decisions to create something new.
May you realize that God, in God's infinite love and mercy, doesn't allow any of our experiences to go to waste. God restores, renews, and resurrects. God makes all things new, including us.
We don't have to look back on our lives with regret. We can look back on all our experiences with the knowledge that nothing has been wasted and that who we were isn't as important as who we are becoming with God's help.
May it be so for all of us. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.