Coulda Woulda Shoulda

See that link? When that came in an email today I started to cry, and I didn’t even know why. Our daughter is a nurse and next week is going on a medical mission to the Amazon. I’m so proud I cannot contain it. I think that’s why I cried.

I also cried because I wished I could go.

One of the lower rungs on the ladder down into hell has to be regret. Regret for opportunities missed, challenges failed, tempers lost, love withheld…could have, would have, and should have. That’s what I’m experiencing. The coulda woulda shouldas.

Our mothers thought we were funny and ridiculous when my best friend Mary and I, good little Calvinist 10-year-olds, emulated the nurses at the local Catholic hospital. We folded white dishtowels around our heads just so and called ourselves Sister Mary Leaketh and Sister Elainica. We were nurses. I don’t remember about Mary, but I fully intended to become a nurse.

I often wish I had. I could have. I should have, and I would have had not my high school English teacher derided that dream, insisting girls could do more than be nurses or teachers, as if those weren’t noble aspirations. I shouldn’t have listened to her. I don’t know why I did.

If I’d been a nurse, I could have gone to the Amazon on a medical mission trip. That’s supposing I’d conquered my snake psychosis by then.

After two years in college majoring in English, I achieved my dearest dream by becoming a wife, and after that a mother. Our daughter, the one headed to Peru, is only one of three exceptionally intelligent professional and missionary minded children we have. I could still have become a nurse—it’s not an either/or situation—but it’s a bit silly for me to have regrets, isn’t it? Further, I don’t believe the pride I have in the remarkable people my children have become is the kind of pride Father finds unacceptable.

These last few years we’ve had the privilege of taking teams of volunteers into prison to minister to inmates, a people group Jesus identified with in Matthew 25. First-timer volunteers are very alert with equal measures of fear and sense of importance. Old-timers can become cynical and impatient. One-timers recognize this is not their calling and say something like, “Well, at least I can pray.” I want to say, praying is not least. Prayer is essential.

In I Samuel 30:24 instructions are given that those who stay with the supplies will have equal share of the rewards with those who go down into battle. In today’s situation, I believe that those who “stay with the stuff,” in addition to helping materially with finances, or childcare or food, are those who earnestly and faithfully pray for those who are actually going to do the ministry. When crowns are passed in Heaven, there will be jewels in theirs.

So while our daughter goes to the Amazon on a special trip, or while she cares for sick babies, and while one son travels the world so people in undeveloped countries might have clean drinking water, or while that son teaches and does scientific research, and while the younger son leads the congregation in exquisite worship or facilitates ministry by his computer and electronic proficiency, and while they all three teach their children to love God, I’ll stay here with my Bible in my lap, a song of gratitude in my heart and prayer on my lips.


One thought on “Coulda Woulda Shoulda

  1. I wonder how many women experience just this shade of angst. I know I do, but it’s far more generalized. I indict my entire life for being useless. Of less use, worth far less than it could have been had I made different choices all along the way.

    The scripture you refer to is probably the greatest consolation to those who, for no fault of their own, areleft behind when others go off and do the more glamourous stuff. Maybe they have health issues or a physical handicap. Maybe they have what feels like an insurmountable fear or responsibility holding them back. But you’re right regret, if it’s not used to fuel a determination to choose differently in the future, just drags us down. Eph 2:8 & 9 comes to mind as a way of getting free in order to do what we CAN do.

    We mustn’t forget that our sorrowful hearts (for having missed opportunities to bless others) are only the result of Christ’s work in our hearts. And this is worth a lot.

    Thanks for sharing Sister Elainica. Too bad for the woman who caused you to disdain your desire to nurse. Truth is, God has used you often to nurse broken hearts with a wisdom you ignore. He shaped a woman who could, with strength, humor and wisdom, minister in a meaningful way to an often undealt-with sickness of the spirit. He has used you to nurse many. And will use you for many years ahead because you’ve received healing grace and know how to share it with others.

    So there.


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