I’ve said a lot of things I regret. In the thirty-something years I’ve been using this mouth it’s caused me quite a bit of trouble!
A lot of times it’s just silly stuff – like getting someone’s name wrong or trying to be funny or ‘cool’ and failing miserably. As a very ‘open’ person, I’m a professional at making people uncomfortable by sharing too much information or telling long stories that really have nothing to do with anything. Also, I hate silence, so I’m always looking for ways to fill those gaps in conversation – but since I’m not a quick-thinker, I tend to make an awkward moment even more awkward.
But the times I regret most are the times the sinful condition of my heart has leaked out of my lips – because unfortunately, “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). Since I’m human, there’s a lot of pride, judgement, defensiveness and fear hanging out in there – and when I empty that stuff out on the people around me, I’m left with a heart full of shame and regret.
Because there’s no “undo” button.
We’ve grown spoiled in our technological age – our mistakes can often be completely and immediately fixed with the touch of a button, and no one ever has to know! We can backspace, edit, revert, and get a re-do on almost anything. As my older two girls have started being assigned more computer-based projects, I’ve loved teaching them that “Ctrl + Z is your best friend!” This stress-saving feature has revolutionized our world because we are free to make mistakes when we know we can always “undo” them.
Unfortunately, sometimes what we think is sparing us stress may actually be causing it! In a world where we can always “undo”, we have mastered the art of perfecting our presentation. When we color outside the lines – instead of having to let it show and let it go, we can just tap a button, rewind, and try again. And when we’re constantly exposed to the perfected images of those around us, we leave ourselves vulnerable to feelings of shame whenever we seem to be falling short.
We’ve all felt the society and culture-based shame that comes from not measuring up to the standards we are (or think we are) being judged by. The desire to be accepted and fit in with a crowd (yes, even for us ‘grown-ups’) is real and sometimes the things that come out of our mouths in an attempt to belong or impress surprise us! Like me, you’ve probably said a few things over the years that made you look a little foolish or feel embarrassed – they may have even left you feeling that you’ve accomplished the opposite of your goal!
But the greater shame, like I said before, comes from the times I “bite” on the temptation to spill out those juicy tidbits of gossip, share that critical ‘observation’ I made on someone’s behavior, ‘vent’ my frustration when things (a.k.a. people) don’t go the way (a.k.a. do what) I thought they should, or when I vomit my emotional state to my family making sure they know exactly how they are at fault for it. It’s in those moments a part of me wants to run and hide – or at least never open my mouth again.
In Genesis 3, we are first introduced to the concept of shame. Adam and Eve had literally taken a bite of sin – they gave in to the temptation and chose to satisfy a desire their own way instead of God’s. And immediately, instead of feeling fulfilled, they felt naked and exposed.
Genesis 3:8 says, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day”. At any point before this, they would have welcomed and been overjoyed to be in the presence of God – but now joy had been traded for shame, and “they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
As a sinner myself, I feel Adam and Eve’s pain – that deep-in-the-pit-of-their-stomachs regret and desperate desire to turn back time and undo what they had done. The pangs of fear that their exposure would be their undoing and that they would not only disappoint God, but be rejected by Him. So they “made coverings for themselves” and then they hid, hoping to avoid the even greater shame that would come from being in God’s holy presence.
God created a lot of things, but shame wasn’t one of them. It was introduced by the evil one and then reinforced by the deceitful condition of the human heart – twisting the conviction of sin (“You made a bad choice”) to a questioning of His character (“You are a bad choice”). It was not ever God’s intention that we would feel the need to escape from His presence – it was never His intention that we would hide because of the fear of being rejected by Him.
And though their sin couldn’t be undone, their shame could. Verse 21 says, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” They had tried to cover it up on their own – even to the point of refusing to take the blame when they had been caught. But instead of furthering their shame, God Himself made a sacrifice in order to take it away.
In the same way, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Because of the sacrifice God made on our behalf, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). So when we sin, instead of trying to cover up or hide, instead of living in defeat and beating ourselves up, instead of wishing for an “undo”, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
No matter how valuable this little button has been to me over the years, it hasn’t always saved me. There are times a program or app will only go back a certain number of steps and, of course, plenty of times where there should be an “undo” button, but there isn’t! (Like the app I use to write this blog – I found that out the hard way…)
But sometimes I’m actually glad – because it worked out better in the end that I couldn’t go back. Not being able to fix something the way I wanted to fix it meant I learned something new or had to (gulp) ask for help – and that person ended up making my project better than I ever could have made it.
It’s the same with my sin. Of course I would love to go back in time (to so many times) and, knowing what I know now, tape my big mouth shut! But, in the end, every time I fall short it gives me that push I need to run straight to the presence of God – to a place where I can be overwhelmed by His glory, confess my sin and then be reminded of His great love for me. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything!
“There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord”*
*“Holy Spirit”, Lyrics by Bryan & Katie Torwalt