Regrets and Remorse

I would like to share this sculpture with you by Jewish artist Herman Wald who was born in Romania in 1906. The title of this piece is The Prodigal Son, based on the biblical parable in Luke. It is the story of a destitute son who squandered his inheritance and remorsefully returns to his father who forgives him and welcomes him home.

But this depiction of the prodigal son is not like any we’ve seen before. To stay true to the biblical story, the standing figure should be a father but Wald instead has the son returning to a mother. There is a good reason for this. He fled Europe and went to South Africa in 1937 because Europe was becoming more and more anti-Semitic. But he left his mother behind. She perished in the Holocaust.

This is a personal piece of art for Wald as he works through his survivor’s guilt. The pose of the son is one of humility and vulnerability. His body is bent in an upward arch, his bare feet exposed for the viewer to see, his weight thrust toward his mother, who bends over him slightly but with her arms hanging helplessly by her side. She wants to support him, but she can’t because she is no longer there.

For me, this artwork emanates regret and remorse. We may relate for to be human is to have both. Mistakes and selfishness are universal experiences. I have many regrets that haunt me. I wish I would have gone home to see my father before he died. I wish I was more patient with my mother when she was suffering from dementia. Regrets, remorse—I have my share. God invites us to leave them with him. Instead, he would like to let our regrets and remorse drive us to the cross, to forgiveness, to mercy, to peace.

Being Human connection: Christian writer Oswald Chambers says: “…we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise when we remember our yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and he allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present. Leave the broken, irreversible past in his hands, and step out into the invincible future with him.

Featured art: Herman Wald, The Prodigal Son, 1963

“Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

~2 Corinthians 7:10 (The Message)