Have you ever looked back on the life you’ve lived so far and wondered, “How in the heck did I end up here?” That thought runs through my mind more than I care to admit. It’s as if I planned a trip from Charlotte to San Francisco, only to wind up in Montana. Somewhere, somehow, I ended up taking a detour that changed the trajectory of my life, for better or for worse.

“My entire life can be described in one sentence: It didn’t go as planned, and that’s OK.” – Rachel Wolchin

Regret is one of my least favorite words in the English language. It is a word I always longed to avoid. Regret was the ghost under my bed when other kids stayed awake in fear of purple monsters. Regret is the haunting voice echoing in my head when I go to bed at night. Regret is the past constantly invading my present and my future.

What was once a head full of expectations gradually turned into a head filled with past mistakes and painful choices that created the future I face in my present. Dreams have turned to dust, hopes have turned to moments lost and ambitions have turned to regrets. It’s not that I am just a walking mistake waiting to happen, but it’s amazing how one decision can derail our lives and send us spinning down a path we never intended to travel. Yet, can one hopeful decision do just the opposite?

Regret is like suffering a death in the story of your own life. Yet, what if I told you that we don’t have to remain in our regrets? What if it’s actually possible to dream again?

I was once pursuing a career in film acting—an ambition in which I must admit, I failed miserably. After a few years living (more like “existing”) in Los Angeles, I returned home, depressed out of my mind and filled with regret. Yet, out of my failings, beauty arose from the rubble. I met my wife at a coffee shop, discovered my passion for writing, made new friendships and began dreaming new dreams. Just for clarity’s sake, I was not always so optimistic. In fact, upon my return to my hometown, I lived in a life of regret for several years, constantly rethinking every move I made that changed the script. Decisions revolved around trying to right the wrongs I made years before, all while I was missing opportunities to create a new story in my present.

There’s an overused word that we need to revisit. That word is “hope.” You can find the word on designer clothing, magazines, self-help tweets, business slogans and on every street-corner advertisement. Yet, how many of us actually examine and digest the true essence of the word? When you hear it, does it simply resonate with “maybe,” “possibly” and “you never know?” Has hope become a trend without any substance?

To hope is to dream, to move forward and to be filled with great expectations.

Everyone dreams. Whether your dream is to ask that cute girl in psych class on a date, become a professional athlete, find the cure for cancer, become a college professor or drink all the coffee on the planet (my kind of dream) we all long to become someone bigger than the person we are right now. We dream, we imagine and we hope. Hope is the fuel that moves us toward our dreams. Call it adrenaline for the soul. Hope is what we crave when the world is on fire and we can’t see past the smoke. Hope is the itch we want to scratch when we’re in a state of monotony, desperate for a change. Hope is the heartbeat of the brokenhearted that calls us to better days ahead, even when life is filled with terrible pain.

Regrets are nothing when faced with raw, untamed hope. Regret scream reminders of yesterday’s pain, while hope is the anthem calling us into the future.

It’s true. I failed. I’m not a famous film actor. Whenever I tell people that I failed at acting, they always want to empathize by saying, “No! You’re not a failure! You gave it your best and it just didn’t work out.” As kind and sincere as those sentiments may be, the truth of the matter is that I failed. I’m not ashamed to admit it, especially now as I have learned how to dream new dreams and to hope for a new future. Failure reminds us that we’re human, not that we’re losers.

“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” – Romans 8:24-25 

Even the eternal life that flows through my veins is built on the very essence of hope. Hope for the Father’s promise of resurrection was with Jesus when He faced His death on the Cross. Hope is what the disciples found when leaving their former lives behind for an adventure into the unknown. Hope is what I cling to when I wonder if my Father has forgotten my name. I hope that His promises are stronger than my feelings.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ― George Bernard Shaw

In the 34 years I’ve lived on this planet, one of the greatest truths I’ve learned is my future is created by the choices I make today. Seems simple and obvious, but I’ve never been good at the obvious. I like complicated. There must be something more than just making wise choices! Nope. Even in the midst of failure, we must choose to dream again and to step into the unknown by making choices that create a better future.

Hope compels us toward expectation, expectation inspires us to dream, dreams inspire our choices and our choices create the future.

If you’ve believed the lie that your past determines your future, I have good news for you: Your future has yet to be created. You’re invited to dream again, to step into hope and to embrace great expectations for a tomorrow that is better than your yesterdays.

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