Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35 NIV)
What does it mean to regret?
From a human perspective, this means to think back on an action or decision and judge it as poor, wrong, unwise, wrongly judged. Wishing the decision had been otherwise. Wishing the words had been otherwise. Wishing the action had been otherwise.
Regret implies there are limitations to our knowledge or understanding at a given point in time, or that there are forces at play that are outside our control.
Yet God is sovereign and in control of every situation.
I work as a country doctor, which means I carry a good weight of responsibility.
Not only do I treat many in our community, but I also train younger doctors.
In teaching doctors, I am given the task of helping to mould their abilities and judgements in the hope of benefitting the wider community which they will serve in the future. This is both a privilege, and a serious responsibility.
Teaching doctors invariably involves patients, my patients. I am, of course, responsible to provide good care to my patients, and allowing a younger doctor, or student, to be part of a consultation or procedure involves trust and consent.
At some point, the young doctor must be allowed to perform a procedure themselves, under supervision, in order to truly gain the skills necessary to work unsupervised in the future.
If, as a student, all you ever do is watch, then training is deficient. “Hands on” is a vital step in training.
Personally, my best learning experiences as a student (and scariest) have come from being allowed to take control.
As a supervisor, allowing a student to take control is risky, but necessary.
It means that I deliberately choose to step back and allow actions to play out.
At what point do I as a supervisor, intervene? What if a procedure is going horribly wrong? What of my responsibility to my patient?
The bottom line is, if something does go horribly wrong, the loss or damage comes back onto me.
Yes, I have regretted allowing trainees to perform procedures that they failed at. I hope those events have been big learning experiences for them, they certainly have for me.
At some point, I may have to make a judgement that a particular trainee is really not suitable for a particular type of doctoring, or maybe should not be a doctor at all. Thankfully this is rare.
When God chose Saul, he took a risk. He later regretted this choice. It feels awkward to talk about God in this way. Does God make mistakes? I believe not.
Yet it seems that he is prepared to take a risk on Saul, then stand back, so to speak, and allow things to play out.
Sadly, Saul never seems to learn from his mistakes, and the final outcome is that God chooses a new King. David.
There are two points I wish to make.
Firstly, when things go horribly wrong, they are, ultimately, the teacher’s responsibility. In Sauls case it was Samuel's, but beyond this, it was God’s. And he does take responsibility, sending his very own Son, to bear the sin of the world.
Secondly, God’s risk in choosing Saul, is no different to his risk in choosing Samuel, Eli, and even David, who, in spite of his being full of the Holy Spirit, failed miserably with Uriah the Hittite and his wife. In fact, it is no different in his risk in choosing people like you and I. Love takes risks.
1 Corinthians 13:7 Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.