No Regrets

God doesn’t care where you’ve been-only where you’re going.

Whenever I look at this picture, one word always comes to mind:

Regret.

I have no real evidence or documentation to back this up, that this great man who did such great things was feeling any regret on June 13, 1948. This was to be a day of great celebration. But as they say-a picture’s worth a thousand words…

It was the 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium, so what better day to retire the great man’s uniform number 3 and hold an old-timer’s game honoring the 1923 team that had christened the joint.

George Herman Ruth was 53 years old that chilly day in The Bronx. The Yankees were hosting the Cleveland Indians later that afternoon, but nobody was fooling anybody, for every single one of the 60,000 men, women, and children who filled the holy cathedral that day were there for one reason-to fix eyes one final time on Him. The Babe was dying.

The story goes that he showed up late for the event. He was accompanied by a personal nurse and was in constant pain. The once mighty specimen had been reduced to nothing. As he sat in the clubhouse changing into the familiar pinstripes next to his old locker, every movement was an effort. He had only been retired from the game for 13 years.

It was sadly-ironic that he had been asked to serve as manager for his ‘23 teammates that day. Those who were close said managing had been his only real dream, the only true ambition he ever had. This man, who had been for most of his adult life the most famous human being in the world, rarely cared deeply for anything, including himself. He treated his body poorly during his playing days, content with living freely and having a good time. During the party, he managed to hit 714 home runs, revolutionize a kid’s game into a National Pastime, and have a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art stadium built to house his worshipers. He was the closest thing to an earthly-god as could be.

And now, back in the House That He Built one final time, the past came calling.

As his name was called, he rose from the visiting dugout and delicately walked towards home plate, doffing his little black cap, and smiling for the photographers. He stood alone, leaning on a bat loaned to him by Bob Feller, and let the praise shower down upon him. Two months later, he would be gone.

Pulitzer Prize photo by Nat Fein

Out of all the photographs taken of Ruth that day, it is the one by Nat Fein, which won a Pulitzer, that’s probably remembered most, for it is iconic. His famous face hidden, only the 3 on his back to identify, we still instantly know, it is The Babe.

Yet it is the picture up top that I love most, because I believe it tells a more accurate story of the man that day. When I study it, I cannot look away from that face, a face full of expression that touches my heart. I feel as if I can read his mind, hear his thoughts.

“Where did it go? I once had it all. Where did it all go?”

I see a man staring down into the cold face of regret.

In our lives, regret can be destructive. Psychologists say it is one of the most destructive emotions we encounter. It causes us to constantly look into the rearview mirror when we should be concentrating on the windshield. It can keep us shackled to our pasts, mired in guilt, preventing us from becoming all that we should be.

What-ifs and could-have-beens are the mud on life’s road, and it is so easy to lose focus of where we are going and get stuck. When you find yourself struggling with regret, or what could have been “only if”…consider the words of Paul, a man who had every reason to look back on his life and have serious regret over the things he had done:

“Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it, but one thing I do-forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead. I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:13–14

There is for us all, if we are willing, a life where a prize is promised, where your past, your missteps, and your regrets do not factor in.

God doesn’t care where you’ve been, only where you’re going.

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