Instead of posting an actual memoir this week, I decided to share one of my memoir-brainstorming sessions. Sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination.
I recently jotted down the titles of books I can never seem to “recover” from, the novels that keep me up at night and appear on my TBR list for the umpteenth time.
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
North! Or Be Eaten and The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson
Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques
As I searched for a common thread, many themes surfaced, laudable themes such as forgiveness, sacrifice, and loyalty. But what shoved its way to the forefront of my memory was…regrettable.
Regret: that sense of a wasted life, a ticking clock, and bad habits that die hard. Regret: the realization of tragedy, when the “aha” moment comes too late, when the damage can never be undone. If I had to choose one single word to connect my beloved rereads, it would have to be “regret.”
Over and over again, I have experienced vicariously the stab of guilt, the tearful “what if?,” and the desperate longing to rewrite the past.
Why do I keep coming back for more? A perverted addiction to pain?
No, it is because regret is the precursor to redemption.
In some of these books, characters are given the chance to channel their regret into restoration. Janner Wingfeather lays down his life for his brother, giving him the chance to be a boy again. Christopher Heron discovers that Cecily is still alive; he brings her home by surrendering himself to The Fairy Folk.
However, despite their desire to do so, Richard Shelton and Martin the Warrior cannot alleviate the consequences of their actions. They cannot raise the dead. As Richard realizes, “[A] thing once done is not to be changed or remedied, by any penitence” (The Black Arrow).
Despite this bitter truth, neither Richard nor Martin succumb to despair. Rather, each transforms their regrets into repentance, replacing their selfishness with selflessness. The ruins of the past illuminate strong foundations for the future.
It reminds me of this oft-repeated verse:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
I can be a fearful person who second-guesses and vacillates excessively on the brink of action, or I can find peace in the Providence of God. I can trust that Christ will redeem my regrets and use them to conform me to His Image.
And that, my friends, is how memoirs are born.