As far as Reuben was concerned, he had failed.
The inconsolable grief of his aging father was his fault. Most nights, before sleep came, Reuben saw again the sight of the empty cistern. He heard the echo of laughter as his brothers counted the shekels and explained that Joseph had been sold and was on his way to Egypt.
The original plan was to murder Joseph. Lacking the stomach for murder, but possessing the guts to speak up, Reuben offered an alternative plan. “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern.” Rueben didn’t disclose his real plan. He would come back later for Joseph, get him out of the pit and take him home to Jacob.
Reuben left the others for a while, thinking his plan was in place. When he returned he was told that Joseph had been sold to some Midianite merchants.
And Reuben was left with his regrets. If only he had stayed close by. If only he had been there when the merchants came. If only he had come back sooner.
********Most of us have said this kind of thing to ourselves about something. We’ve relived the moments that we think we could have changed if only we’d done better or done more. We’ve rehearsed our failure over and over again. We’ve given ear to the low murmurings of our regrets.
If only we had been there. If only we had known. If only we had said something sooner.
We can easily imagine that Reuben lived long with his regrets, that he rehearsed them often. But what looked and felt like failure to Reuben wasn’t failure at all. God wanted to get Joseph to Egypt. God’s plan trumped Reuben’s plan, but this is hard for us to see.
The divine hand is often hidden behind what goes wrong.
One of the most practical ways we experience God’s gift of freedom is in knowing that God’s grace covers all of our regrets. What we would do all over again if we could is guided by the will and ways of God who does all things well from the start, every time.
What would you do over again if you could? How will you place your regrets in the hands of a sovereign God?
Gracious God, I’ve replayed my mistakes enough. I’ve rehearsed my regrets and know them well. Today I give them to you, trusting your unseen hand to work something good, something redemptive, from every part of my life. Help me to trust you with all of my life, and grant your peace, I pray. Amen.