“If you could redo any day, what day would it be?” eight-year-old Savannah inquired.
Immediately, my mind turned to events I regretted. Days when I’d yelled at her and her sisters, or picked a fight with my husband Ted, or struggled to manage my emotions well. I painstakingly mulled over which of these days held the greatest remorse. It was too difficult to choose.
“I’m not sure. There are so many,” I hesitantly replied. “What about you? What day would you do over?”
Her answer surprised me. While I had instantly journeyed to my worst days, she’d traveled to her best.
“Either when we went to Disney World or the day we got our cats!” she excitedly explained.
In that moment, I wanted to be more like my daughter. I longed to reflect on the past and be captivated by the good, not weighed down by the bad.
Maybe you can relate.
In both marriage and parenting, it’s difficult not to dwell on and replay all of our failures. And, if you’re anything like me, they’re many. But when we do it too much, and allow ourselves to be plagued by guilt, we live in the joy-stealing world of condemnation rather than the life-giving domain of conviction and forgiveness.
What are some ways we can better nurture a best-day outlook? Here are three.
1. Recognize the difference between condemnation vs. conviction
It’s easy to recognize condemnation by its accusatory nature. It repeatedly beats us up over our sin and leaves us defeated. It accusingly whispers, “You are your worst act on your worst day.” It seeks to define us by our offenses, rather than by Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf.
While condemnation disparages us, conviction gently corrects us. According to Scripture, the word “conviction” means to feel godly sorrow. It’s the Holy Spirit’s means to tell us, “You were wrong, but you are not defined by this. Own your behavior, apologize for it, and leave it behind.”
2. Determine to embrace only conviction and reject condemnation
Sometimes condemnation starts as conviction. It has its beginnings in the God-given realization that we messed up and need to take responsibility for our poor behavior. But conviction quickly turns to condemnation when we determine to punish ourselves for our wrongdoing, rather than turn from it and accept forgiveness from God, ourselves, and the people we’ve hurt.
This is where many of us get stuck. We have no problem taking responsibility for our actions and apologizing. What we do struggle with is accepting forgiveness. We feel the need to make ourselves pay first. We don’t believe we deserve to move on so easily.
Yet, this is exactly what God says we can do. In Romans 8:1, Paul writes, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Conviction without condemnation is ours because of Jesus, because of His accomplishments and our relationship with Him.
3. After the U-turn, don’t look back
While condemnation tempts us to dwell on our less-than-stellar actions, conviction invites us to – as Jesus instructed the woman caught in adultery – “go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
We’re encouraged to do a U-turn. We can choose to repent, or to turn around from, our hurtful or destructive behavior. And, if condemnation attempts to plague us, we can remind ourselves that because of Jesus our sin has been removed “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). That’s pretty far.
The next time that Savannah asks me what day I’d redo, I hope my attention naturally turns to the good days. I hope I’m quick to recall the days we giggled and laughed as a family, the ones where we celebrated milestones, or the times we simply spent hours together.
What about you? If you could redo one day, which day would it be?