I should have done this a long time ago

Last night when leaving choir practice, the ending of Star Trek: The Next Generation came to mind. Specifically, the very ending when Captain Picard joins his officers at their regular poker game. He’s had the opportunity to do so many times during the series but never took them up on it. As he prepares to deal the cards, he says what I used as the title of this blog post.

I should have done this a long time ago.

There are two major choices I’ve regretted in my life. The first was not finishing college when I was in my early 20’s and instead waiting until my mid 30’s. The second was stepping away from the Church shortly after getting married in my mid 20’s and not returning until my late 30’s. Both choices led to a series of bad things that didn’t need to happen in my life, things that wouldn’t have happened had I been more mature in the case of the former or more open to God’s grace in the case of the latter. I still deal with regret attached to those two choices, but will hopefully have let go of that regret by the time my life here on earth is done. At least it’s less now that it was in years past.

I regret not having joined the choir when I was a teenager. I actually had the thought of joining the choir in middle school, but took up guitar instead. Guitar didn’t last long afterwards (I just don’t have the aptitude or inclination to play an instrument well), but choir might have turned out differently. This isn’t a major regret like being a slacker or stepping away from the faith, and it certainly hasn’t had any of the negative consequences associated with those two major regrets. But it’s a minor regret nonetheless.

I’ve been in the choir at my church for almost seven months and have begun to reflect back on the experience to date. It’s hard to hold on to regret after that reflection. The very week I joined it became a “sink or swim” feeling as we starting to practice singing America the Beautiful with four part vocals and I didn’t have a clue what was going on. But our choir director is an excellent teacher. For the first time in my life, I’ve actually learned HOW to sing. I learned what soprano/alto/tenor/bass mean, and that I’m a tenor. I didn’t know anything about the word tenor before that other than it was associated with a male voice in some way. I learned about vocal registers. I learned about breathing techniques, and “tall” sounds. Although I already knew how to read musical notation from way back in grade school, I learned the meaning of the stuff that floats around the staff outside the notes/rests (like mp, ff, crescendo, apostrophe for breathing, etc).

Regret can poison our soul. Regret can destroy our peace, leaving us in turmoil and despair. Oh, how could I? Look at the mess I’ve made. It should have turned out better. It should have been different. Now it will never be the way it should have been, and it’s all my fault.

The things is, we don’t  know what would have been. Things may not have turned out as we expected. We may have made different bad choices, just as likely to lead to regret. We may have made WORSE bad choices. We just don’t know that things would have turned out better.

What we do know is, the way things are today is the reality we have to deal with. This is the situation we face. And regardless of the situation, God is there for us and loves us. God wants to give us his grace, strengthen us against temptation, and lead us into becoming the person that he sees we can become.

Picard’s crew didn’t berate him for never joining their poker games before. They didn’t tell him to go away and that it was too late to join. Riker offered him a chair at the table. Data offered him the cards to deal. And after Picard’s statement of regret, Troi gave the perfect response. With a friendly smile, she simply said, “You were always welcome.”

We are always welcome in God’s house, no matter how long it takes us to get there.