A while ago a friend emailed me with the words of this song. He had always loved Edith Piaf’s song ‘Je ne regrette rien’; but thought of it as a sad expression of defiance for a dissolute life. Having recently looked at the translation he discovered that it’s a love song and one which reverberates with Christian experience.
There’s not a single thing I regret –
Not the good things done to me
And not the bad – they’re all one to me.
They’re all paid for, swept away, forgotten
I don’t care about the past.
I’ve lit the fire with my memories,
My troubles, my pleasures –
I’ve no more need for them.
I’ve swept away all my past loves
And all their emotions –
Swept them away for ever.
I’m starting again from zero.
I have no regrets,
Because from today
All my life and my joys
Begin with you.’
Like so many love songs, it could also be a kind of worship song to God or a psalm perhaps. What is so powerful is the story of someone who can say they are able to begin again. The past has gone. In 2 Corinthians 5 v 17 Paul writes about us being new people in Jesus, ‘the old has gone, the new has come,’ he says. This is one of the great gifts offered by God in Jesus, the chance to start again, all things past, swept away forever. In Psalm 103 the writer assures us that God takes our sins, wrongs and mistakes, lifts them from us and throws them away ‘as far as the east is from the west.’
Edith’s song might well have been sung by a Samaritan women that Jesus met one day at a well. She had been ambushed by life, dumped by five husbands. Things had not gone as she had hoped. But on meeting Jesus she discovered a way forward. Previously saddened and embarrassed about her life, she now hurtled back to her village and gleefully announced, ‘Come and meet the man who knows all about me!’ That must have been the thing that made everyone sit up and notice. This woman suddenly had a very different attitude towards her past. The kind reflected in this song. She was starting again, she had met someone who could wipe the slate clean, who could remove the poison from her history. In truth this would not be straightforward, as for any of us, but it was a start. A big step forward. A new beginning. She would have had regrets and misgivings, but had found a way to let go of these. We can be haunted by the shadows of our past mistakes, find it hard to forgive ourselves, even though God has forgiven us. Often we have to go back to God again and again and talk to him of our troubles.For the woman at the well, her meeting with Jesus was just the beginning of her fresh start. In Revelation chapter 21 verse 5 there is an announcement from heaven, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ It’s ongoing. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, all the past has been ‘paid for’ as Edith sings, and we continue to receive and trust in that, and work out what it means in our lives.