I want to take a few minutes to address the subject of regrets again. Previously, I had written “How Should We Handle Our Regrets”. Recently, while reading John Maxwell’s latest book The 16 Undeniable Laws of Communication, I came across a section where he wrote about a study in which people were asked to respond to the following:
“When you look back on your experiences in life and think of those things that you regret, what would you say you regret more, those things that you did but wish you hadn’t, or those things that you didn’t do but wish you had?”
He goes on to state that of those who responded, 75% replied that they regretted those things that they didn’t do but wish that they had. It surprised me, but immediately what came to mind for me was not becoming a pastor, but instead having a career in the general marketplace. I say it surprised me because it isn’t something that I had really thought about.
During the last three years, I’ve assisted one of our pastors in leading a NXTGEN Pastors Cohort, a group of seminary students that we teach soft skills modules to. Thus far, we’ve met sixteen times. Over the past few months, we took two “road trips”. The first was to visit with a pastor to hear about lessons learned from his church planting experience. It was very interesting – and a little overwhelming – to hear him recount his “scratch planting” (starting with nothing) church planting experience.
The second trip was to visit with a young pastor who had just completed the ordination process. He reached out to our group and offered to share lessons learned from the process to help our cohort members who will be facing that in the years to come. Again, I would say it was a bit overwhelming to hear about what is expected for a man to be ordained in our denomination. The life of a pastor is certainly not an easy one.
It’s already been more than five years since I completed my nearly 38-year career at State Farm. If I had chosen to be a pastor, I might already be retired from that calling. Still, my recent experiences have made me wonder “What if?” I had taken the pastoral route as a career.
Regret may perhaps be too strong of a word as I consider this subject. The most important thing for me is that I know that God has always been working providentially in my life. I didn’t become a believer until I had already been working at State Farm a few years. It wasn’t long after that when my wife Tammy and I began taking evening classes at a small Bible college in central Illinois, which is where we enjoyed several classes with Wayne Bowling, a wonderful man of God. After a few years, we began taking extension classes from Covenant Seminary at our church.
Being a relatively new believer, I never thought of taking seminary classes as a path to becoming a pastor, but to learn more about God so that I could learn to love and serve Him. In God’s providence, it would take me nearly twenty years to complete my studies at Covenant, mostly taking online courses, with periodic trips to St. Louis for in-person classes. Several times during this period Tammy would often offer to sell our house, move to St. Louis, and get a job if I felt called to leave State Farm and go to seminary full-time. I never did. For me, in addition to learning the Bible and theology, seminary helped prepare me to be a good elder in my church. By staying at State Farm, I was able to integrate my faith and work as I worked with hundreds of wonderful people.
Still, I must admit as I engage with the seminary students in our cohort, I wonder what it would have been like to pursue the path that they are on. In the end, I don’t really have any regrets. I know that I followed the path that the Lord had for me.
How about you? Do you have any vocational regrets?