Re-framing Regret Rumination.

It has been a month since I left Houston, I was supposed to have been back in Houston 10 days ago. But I am stuck here in India because during my trip to India, in following some immigration procedures, my visa was put on ‘administrative processing’ status. I cannot travel back to Houston until I get cleared. I have had 5 different visas before, but this has never happened to me. A 10 day delay may not be the worst of things, but I am responsible for some very time sensitive, critical work in Houston which I cannot do effectively from here.


Waiting time!

Waiting time is interesting because the kind of regular life activities that structure most people’s lives ceases to provide structure. It is like the GPS has stopped working so I am having to do extra work to locate myself. What I found is that this provides interesting data on the self.

In the Bible from Abraham to Moses to Paul involved periods of waiting, sometimes long sometimes short. All Christians experience some form of waiting time at different life seasons. We us some tried and true cliches like, ‘waiting time is not wasted time,’ which is helpful. But sometimes such cliques wear thin, they crumble under pressure.

Even as I kept myself occupied doing work remotely… preaching at different places, churches, a bible school, a radio station etc., I was crumbling under the pressure, so to speak. I found myself struggling to keep my mind from regressing back into a place of regret.

portrait old person sad
Photo by omar alnahi on

Regret Rumination
The problem with thoughts of regret is that it is like opening a Pandora’s box. Once it is opened, it cannot be easily closed. It brings up a whole host of other regrets from the past. My mind keeps regressing into a rumination, regretting things that had nothing to do with the current visa situation, wondering about all the different roads not taken in points of prior life choices.

Kierkegaard says, “I say of my sorrow what an English man says of his house: my sorrow is my castle.”

Sometimes regret (sorrow) seems like an intimate companion, so we can allow ourselves to become too comfortable and familiar with it and retreat into it as though the sorrow and the ensuing self-pity is castle that protects us from the vagaries of the world around. The problem with regret is that it is like a dark pair of shades that colors that I see with a dark hues. Regret is like unwelcome moisture corroding and eating through the inner strength, the resilience.

Regret is a way of re-channeling the pain of the loss. Behind all regrets is perceived loss. When we make a life choice and lose something, we begin to regret the choice we made, wondering if a different choice may have obviated the loss. In my case I was wondering if I hadn’t made this trip to India, then I wouldn’t be in this soup (because I already had a valid work visa there). As the regret was corroding me from within, I was finding myself getting frustrated. My ability to enjoy movies and reading books was starting to take a toll. Knowing myself, when my heart is unable to drawn to a well told story, I know something is really off.

I know God works all things for the good, BUT that did not bring me to a place of peace for some reason. Why?

As I was thinking about why God’s assurances did not seem to be able to get me out of the pit. Then I realized that I was searching for a ‘why’ – a ‘why’ that would help me to endure the wait.

How did knowing the ‘why’ help me get out of this pit of regret rumination?

It happened while I was at the Church praying. I had the sense of the Holy Spirit reminding me of the truth that I needed to remember. The truth is this – God was using this unique, never before experienced, situation to teaching me the ALL sufficiency of Christ even in this situation. Only when we experience a loss of some kind we get the opportunity to allow our self to experience Christ’s all sufficient calvary-love in the space left by the loss. This was the ‘why’ I was looking for to make sense of my waiting time – My waiting time was happening so that I get experience the all sufficiency of Christ’s calvary-love in deeper ways.

The poet Christian Wiman says, “if crisis helps me get closer to Christ, then bring it on!”

My initial problem was that waiting time was becoming regret rumination time, drawing me into the pit of despair. But the Holy Spirit promptings helped me to re-frame my waiting time as a time of experiencing the all sufficiency of Christ’s calvary-love in deeper ways than before, moving me to a place of hope in becoming Christ-like.

How did I get to this sense of insight of the Holy Spirit speaking into my predicament?

It happened through 3 processes.

1.Being comfortable with lament:
Lament is about pouring out our hearts, along with its pains before God. Sometimes people say when they face disappointments in life, they have to respond with praise as an antidote. This is only a partial view of how the Bible deals with disappointment. When we look at the Psalms, we find that in the Lament psalms, David does not start with praise, he starts with his pain. He pours out his pain to God using language that makes sense to him. Then in the second half of the Psalm, after his pain has been poured out to God then he is free to praise God for who he is. The lament Psalms end with a renewed trust in God’s all sufficiency.

Applying this to me, when I was going through frustrating situations and the pain, I wrote down my own sense of laments in the form of the psalm…
a) pour out my pain
b) meditate on God’s character
c) receive God’s presence with grateful trust.

2.Asking for prayer from friends:
In addition to praying for myself. I asked my friends to pray for me… Prayer is the way of trust. It is a posture of faithfulness to God. A lot of the friends I asked prayer for are living all over the world so I asked them prayer over emails or texts. The spiritually attuned among them prayed and spoke the Gospel, reminding me of God’s nature. One of my friends shared in the email about how when she was waiting for something in her own life, God showed himself to be good no matter what. The phrase God is good no matter what spoke to a part of my regretting psyche that needed to hear that at that point. Getting me a step closer to getting to the ‘why’ of this wait.

3.Listening to the Holy Spirit:
John 14:26, Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit by saying that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth who reminds us of the Truths of God to counsel us and to comfort us. This is why it is important to be in a posture of listening. When we listen to the Holy Spirit we are looking for something new, rather, as John 14:26 says we are looking for the Holy Spirit to remind us of a Truth we know deep within, but have forgotten.

A mind clobbered with regret has difficulty remembering the truth. In my case,  going through the 3 steps above helped me to open up to the Holy Spirit reminding me the truth of the all sufficiency of Christ’s calvary-love in ALL life circumstances. This is the way to Christian maturity. Even Jesus waited 30 years to start ministry. His wait wasn’t just arbitrary. Hebrews 5:7-9 says that Jesus grew and matured in wisdom and learn obedience during the time of waiting.

As I am waiting on my visa admin processing to complete one of two things can happen. The admin processing may successfully complete and I may go back to the States and resume my life there. Or there may be a rescinding of the visa in which case, i will have to say goodbye to my life in the States.

Whichever way things go, in as much as I rest in the all sufficiency of Christ’s Calvary-love for me, I will be fine. This gives me hope! In as much as I do not rest in Christ’s all sufficiency, I will regress in to castle of regret. 

In one of the renderings of the myth of Pandora’s box  at the bottom, after all the evil has been released, the final thing to get released is hope.

Life a journey of reckoning the all sufficient calvary-love of Christ. And during this journey there are periods of spurt growth interspersed with periods of dormancy. Times of trial and crisis become times of deep dependence on Christ, if we are able to lament the loss, ask for prayer and listen to the Holy Spirit to find how to re-reframe the regret into hope. Right now, through this time of waiting, I am going through a period of accelerated growth in learning what it means to rest in the all sufficient love of Christ, maturing to become more Christ-like,  creating in me a hope to face anything tomorrow will throw my way.