So far in this mini series on dreams we’ve talked about testing whether a dream is from God and working out when it’s time to let a dream die. Now it’s time to deal with regret. Or more specifically, the fear of future regret. If you let your dream go will you one day regret that you did? Read Renee’s letter below – it speaks to any broken dream, not just the dream of having a child – then take a look at my response. What advice would you add?
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Hi Sheridan and Merryn.
I have a question. My husband and I are contemplating our future at present. After being assessed and accepted into the [Australian] adoption program, we have been waiting on the adoption list now for over 7 years and are considering calling it quits. I am turning 44 this year, and just feel emotionally incapable of continuing on.
We are wondering how we might feel if we do bring this journey to an end—how we move forward without regrets. I’m hoping you might shed some light on this through your own journey. How do you give up on a dream of parenthood without regretting what might have been? Or do you just keep keeping on, regardless of how tired you feel?
We gave up on IVF after a few tries, but still sit with the ‘what if’ question which comes up each time you hear about miracle babies born through IVF, and the progresses made in the technology. What if we do the same with adoption?
We’d really appreciate your insights.
Question: What advice would you give to Renee on regret? Tell her now
I really am sorry to hear you’ve had to experience the wilderness that is infertility. Merryn and I resonate with so much of what you’ve written—the lengthy wait for the adoption agency to call, the cycle of raised expectations and dashed hopes, the ‘what if’ questions which can be so torturous, the feeling you can’t go on anymore. The fact you’ve waited for seven years for adoption alone says something about your tenacity. You must be very strong people to have lasted this long, especially after trying IVF before that. If you do call it a day, you’ve done so having tried very hard—and that should be remembered afterwards.
Let me address the central question you have, on regret. If you call an end to the journey to start a family, will you regret it later? I’ll put my thoughts in point form:
1. Yes, you might regret it. We need to face this head-on as it will actually help you prepare if you do choose to call the journey to an end. None of us knows the future, including how we’ll feel after making such a significant decision like this. You may feel regret, you may not. You may wish you’d waited one more week, one more month, one more year for the call to come and collect your adoptive child, or tried one more option like IVF again. Or you may feel so relieved at no longer carrying the weight of this problem that you’ll only ever feel light and free when comparing your future life with this past season. That’s the risk we take with any decision, by the way. You have no way of knowing the outcome either way (including the outcome of an adoption).
2. However, in our experience, this fear of future regret is strongest on this side of infertility rather than the other side. When Merryn and I called an end to our decade of infertility, bringing our dream of having a child to an end, it actually allowed us to grieve and start our lives over. Yes, there are days we occasionally wish things were different. But they are fewer and farther between because we’ve been able to move on. And you simply can’t do that emotionally until you’ve intentionally buried the unfulfilled dream and grieved well over it.
3. Thirdly, there is another fear lurking behind the ‘regret’ question and that question is this: ‘If we make the wrong decision, will our lives be ruined?’ Deep down this is what we really fear. And with Jesus the answer is decidedly No. If we head in the wrong direct he can lead us back on the right path. If we kill the dream too early he can resurrect it. Merryn and I have found God bring an unexpected new beginning out of our broken dream, which is what the Resurrection Year book is all about. He is redeeming our pain in ways that are truly amazing to us and taken us in a new life direction. Your life will not be over if you choose to end the search for a family. Trust Him to take you somewhere new through it.
4. Fourthly, we need to banish those ‘what if’ questions for good. Since we can never foresee the outcome of any decision we make, the ‘what if’ question can never be answered. (Even with the progress in technology, there’s no guarantee IVF would’ve worked for you.) We need to seek God over our decisions, trust that he’ll guide us (Proverbs 3:5-6), walk forward making adjustments as we need, but trusting He’s leading us even when it’s hard to see whether He is or not. I sometimes wonder if those ‘What if’ questions are just satan’s torture device on us.
I hope this helps in a small way, Renee.
Praying for you.
What advice would you give to Renee on regret? Pass it on now. Call me using the ‘Send Voicemail’ button, or leave a comment now. Please also rate and share this podcast on iTunes to help others discover it.
You may find the following links and resources helpful:
- Blog: 6 Tests for a God-Given Dream
- Blog: When Do You Let a dream Die?
- Blog/Video: Does the Pain Ever Go Away?
- Podcast: Following God into the Unknown
- Resurrection Year has been named a finalist for the ECPA Christian Book of the Year Award. Winners will be announced April 28!
- I will be doing a speaking tour of the US in October on Resurrection Year. If you are interested in having me speak, please get in touch soon
- I have a busy schedule of speaking through the UK also. The next event is a one-day retreat in Oxford called ‘From Broken Dreams to New Beginnings’ on Saturday April 5. Spaces are limited and tickets are cheap
- Interested in writing? I’ll be speaking at Panning for Gold, a writer’s weekend at Scargil House, Yorkshire, with Adrian and Bridget Plass in May
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