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 Pexels.com

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.

Christian Response to the Abortion Debate – Go the Extra Mile!

Let us not only use the Dr. Kermit Gosnell fiasco to ‘just talk’ about pro-life causes or find fault with others, rather. let use this opportunity to look at ourselves introspectively and see how we can ‘go the extra mile’, by an ethic of self-giving, to save kids either by adoption or by providing support to mothers in distress.

The trail of Dr. Kermit Gosnell the provider of questionable abortion services has brought the abortion debate back to the fore. Pro-life activists use this to strengthen their case, and activists on the pro-abortion side do likewise too. When such issues come to the fore, it creates a space for ideas to be discussed and important questions to be asked. One such question is how should Christians respond to the abortion question.
 

Christian Response – Bumper Stickers? Facebook Posts? Vote the opposition out? Overturn Roe V. Wade?

Often times, well meaning Christians feel that if others would realize that a life is being killed, they would stop abortion. So some Christians try to use graphic images and hyperbolic language on everything from Facebook to Bumper stickers to get people to think abortion is murder. But more often than not, judgmental words falls on deaf ears because the problem isn’t so much intellectual as physical and spiritual. Being judgmental is rarely a good approach to a problem. Why? Because even Christ has asked us to not look at the speck in others eyes. We need to start trying to find the log in our own.

The politically active Christian conservative response is to keeping voting for the right candidates at the county, city, state national level to somehow overturn Roe v.Wade. It is good to not want to vote for the pro-abortion candidate, but how does voting for pro-life candidate really solve the issue of millions of babies being killed in the womb. Overturning Roe v. Wade is good, but that will not solve the abortion problem. Just like liquor production/consumption went underground during prohibition, If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned abortion will go underground too. Lives will still be lost (may be to a slightly lesser degree but they still will be). Case in point, abortion is illegal in India but it happens every day. I am not suggesting that Christians shouldn’t attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, we should… but we need to realize that Roe v. Wade is just the tip of the iceberg, abortion issues involve huge underlying cultural strongholds that are seldom acknowledged, rarely talked about in popular Christian circles (in my humble opinion).
 

An Iceberg Kind of Problem

Problems of this iceberg kind that are deeply rooted in a society’s cultural values cannot be legislated away, they require a multifaceted, long term, bottom up approach. Problems of the iceberg kind need action oriented solutions that slowly and steadily chip away at the root cause of the problem. To address a problem in a multifaceted approach, we have to first understand the deep rooted multifaceted nature of the cultural causes of abortion.

Causes for abortion:
1. Breakdown in family structure leading to children being seen as a burden to living an affluent, peaceful and carefree life.
2. Inadequate familial/community support during pregnancy leading to wrong headed guidance during the vulnerable phase of pregnancy.
3. Irresponsible use of sexual freedom.
 

The Real Question… the Right Answer

Given the deep rooted cultural causes, the question of Christian response is not so much about how Christians should respond to the problem of abortion as much as it is about how Christians should respond to the cultural causes underlying need for abortions… The best answer, in my opinion, is not in bumper stickers or political power but in the willingness of the Christian(s) to go the extra mile with the lady in distress wherever God has placed us. Most women that go to abortion clinics go there in distress. They opt for abortion because they do not see another way out. We need to love the people in distress as God loves us. Depending on where a Christian is in his/her life, ‘going the extra mile’ may mean different things… To some it may involve considering adoption of the children of mothers at risk. To others it may mean supporting a family that is going through adoption of a child of a mother at risk. Or it could mean helping the mother at risk during pregnancy and after pregnancy so that she can get back on her two feet and move on with life. We need to have a ‘go the extra mile’ with the lady in distress approach instead of the ‘grab the leavers of power’ and change course approach. Going the extra mile as Christ has called us, is not a silver bullet. It is the start of a long process of going extra miles. We will walk and not be weary, we will with God’s help come victorious in the end. Let us now look how going the extra mile works in different scenarios.
 

Consider Adoption – Go the Extra Mile Yourself

Modernized culture sees kids as a burden and not a blessing from God. When we look back at History, back in Rome when Christians were persecuted left right and center, abortions (infanticide) was a huge cultural phenomenon among the pagans. Children were thought to be a burden back then too. Lacking modern abortion procedures, they gave birth to children and left them in some secluded place to die (as per Roman law, until the father ‘owned’ the child, it did was not a person. The father could discard the child as he would his property). The Christians would go look at these places, take the abandoned infants and bring them up as their own (Link here). Surprise, surprise… one more Christian is added to the number. Among other things, Christians kept adopting kids over a few centuries and surprise, surprise… one day the Roman empire became Christian. As modern Christians, would we be willing to consider this patient, painstaking, long term approach to true cultural change?

If Christians truly want to save lives, we need to be willing to adopt kids from the ladies in distress who do not have the support structure, in the form of a good family to be able to raise kids. Unfortunately, many modern Christians view having kids as a burden, so find it difficult to ‘go the extra mile’ of adopting kids from distressed moms. The pro-abortion activists too do not want to ‘go the extra mile’, in the sense that they want the distressed mother of the child to be exempted from having to ‘go the extra mile’ of having the child. The pro-abortion folks would rather kill. Of course, the Christians majority do not want to kill, but often we do not seem to be too eager to want to save the child by adoption either. Apart from voting for the ‘right’ candidate (as though that would solve the problem of dying kids), we Christians are mostly content going to prayer rallies and shouting with all our strength that it is murder. We are not wrong, but we aren’t doing enough either. The question to the ‘transformed’ Christians is, are we willing to show the world that children are a blessing. Going the extra mile means we are willing to do more than what is required of us. The Word of God mandates that we do so (in one form or another). Are we open to the possibility of God calling us to ‘go the extra mile’ of adopting unwanted kids.

From what I know Houston has some good pastors who are setting great role models by adopting kids in addition to having kids of their own. Read Pastor Voddie Baucham here 6 of his 8 kids are adopted is one example (Note: in some parts of his video, Pastor Baucham comes off as being more critical of the culture and consequently less critical of the Church. My tone in this post has been to be more critical of the Church’s response than the culture outside the church.)
 

Support Ladies in Distress – Go the Extra Mile

Of course, some of us may not be in a position, either financially or socially, to be able to adopt the child of a lady in distress. So what can these Christians do? I am one of these Christians. Given where I am, I cannot adopt a kid. I don’t think I’ll be anywhere close to adopting a kid any time in the near future either. How can Christians that cannot adopt ‘go the extra mile’ to save the kid? One answer… by providing as much outside support to the mother of the kid as we can to help her through pregnancy and adoption process, if she decides to give the baby for adoption. Or help her grow the child if she decides to keep the child. Help the mother get back on her feet after delivery. Provide continued community support to the mother. It is good to sponsor Compassion kids in Africa, Asia and South America, but sometimes we also need to look after the Lazarus at our doorstep. All of this involves Christians following an ethic of self-giving Christ-likeness. Are we willing to be conformed to the self-giving image of Christ?

Often times when a woman without the good familial/community support realizes that she is pregnant, she hits a point of crisis. She is vulnerable to opinions expressed by people she is with. At such times, a woman’s needs are specific and predictable which opens up avenues for Christians to help. A woman in distress will visit a pregnancy testing clinic. If such a woman in crisis steps into the Planned Parenthood center to get a pregnancy test she is likely to end up choosing to abort the kid. Christians need to have pregnancy centers which become a place where women in crisis can come and get counseled. The good news is, Christians run such pregnancy centers (here is an example http://www.houstonpregnancyhelpcenter.org/) but they tend to be understaffed and are in constant need for volunteersour time may be well spent helping at such centers rather than plotting overturn of Roe v. Wads, so to speak. Such pregnancy centers need help from Christian men too.

If a woman in crisis decides to not abort the child, then she needs a home, a support structure which she is cared for until delivery and the child is given for adoption. She also needs support after delivery to go back to school or work. Christian families need to open up their homes for this cause. There are some families that do this, but again we need more. Even Christian singles who may not be able to provide such help can complement the help provided by Christian families. Christian singles, instead of congregating among themselves doing dance nights, game nights and movie nights, can provide community support for such distressed ladies living with the Christian family that supports them.
 

Need a Reality Check?

Irresponsible use of sexual freedoms is another root cause that increases the probability of rampant abortion.  The liberals advocate providing greater access to contraceptives. This is a tricky topic among Christian conservatives. Christians mostly oppose this. Christians are right in opposing illicit sex outside of marriage. But the reality is, restricting access to contraceptives is not going to impact the sex culture in high schools, colleges and other places. Given this reality, wouldn’t it make sense that we should at least allow people to provide themselves the possibility of preventing an abortion using contraceptives. My thoughts on this topic are still evolving, they are not final yet. There are a good number of Christians who are opposed to broader access to contraceptives, they have good reasons. But I for one do not find their reasons are very persuasive given the reality of the sexual culture we live in.
 

The BIG Need: A Christian, Go the Extra Mile Culture

As Christians, we have been judgmental of others long enough. We’ve looked for the ‘speck’ long enough. We blame politics, we blame the Supreme Court Justices, we blame liberal advocates of abortion… It is perhaps time for us to look for the log in our own eyes so to speak… There is no easy silver bullet to solving the abortion problem. The abortion problem is deeply rooted in cultural breakdown which needs to be changed bottom up. Back in the first century Christian world too there was no silver bullet to changing the Roman culture. But then there was the Gospel, Christians responded to the Gospel by loving people around them. As the gospel worked itself in the culture from the bottom up, the culture changed, people changed. Christians of the first few centuries who were saved by the Gospel’s power were empowered by the Holy Spirit and went the extra mile to save others by adoption and other means. If modern Christians obeying God’s command ‘go the extra mile’ along with those in distress, we too will see similar results as the first century Christians.

Let us not only use the Dr. Kermit Gosnell fiasco to ‘just talk’ about pro-life causes or find fault with others, rather. let use this opportunity to look at ourselves introspectively and see how we can ‘go the extra mile’, by an ethic of self-giving, to save kids either by adoption or by providing support to mothers in distress. If enough modern Christians, with the help of the Lord the Holy Spirit, will create and foster a patient, painstaking, persistent ‘go the extra mile’ culture, that will become an avenue to bring about bottom up cultural change.

Not Ultimate, But Important

I made a case in my blog on ‘Lion King’ that this world is NOT ultimate and that as Christians, for us the next world is the ultimate one. This is true, but this does not mean that this world isn’t important. This world is important because Jesus Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of God in this world and we are a part of the Kingdom of God. In this ‘Kingdom of God’, each of us human beings have an important part to play and we need to fulfill that role.

As I noted in an earlier blog about Horses and Christians, Christians need to go out into the world and start building hospitals and corporations and orphanages and make good movies, paint beautiful paintings etc… But all of this apart, the most important goal for Christian living is to be conformed to the Image of Christ. Whether you are building a hospital or a corporation or orphanages or good movies, or great paintings, the Holy Spirit is working in you to conform you to the image of Christ and that is what truly determines success in life, this is why this life though isn’t ultimate, is important nevertheless.