Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. Genesis 37:20-22
There is a father who will take out his anger on his children today. He will cut them to shreds with a sharp rebuke and they will shrink and go into hiding. He’s done it before. He even saw the damage in their eyes but that did not deter him.
There is a middle-aged woman who will see dreaded circumstances repeat themselves. She will say, “Oh no, not again!” but she will make the same disastrous choice she made the last time. She does not see that God often gives another chance to do something different.
Reuben, for all his faults, did make a different choice. (Although not one that was drastic enough.) He had sinned against his father many times throughout his youth and had experienced the stab in his own heart as he saw his father’s pain. The last offense he committed was sleeping with Bilhah, his father’s concubine. With this fresh in his memory, he will not agree to take the life of Joseph, his father’s favored son. He cannot bear the thought of Jacob’s grief yet again.
Do I really learn from my mistakes? The magical answer is ‘yes’. Who is going to repeatedly put their hand over an open flame? But that is naïve. When bad behavior is generational, thoughts of stopping happen long after the deed is done. By default, we live as our fathers did.
Jesus told Nicodemus two critical things. 1.) ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh.’We are like whom we came from. I am a product of a mother and father and will possess not only their physical characteristics but their holy and sinful bents as well. I will not deviate without spiritual transformation. And, 2.) ‘That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.’ I am to be like by new Father because I was born of His Word and His Spirit. So here’s the question that replays in my mind? Am I more like my new Father than my earthly parents? I should be if the new birth and the things of the Spirit are nurtured.
How does this relate to learning from my mistakes? When I repeat the foolishness of my youth, the Spirit of God calls to me. “Why are you doing that? You’re now my own daughter and I’m calling you out to be like me, not them.” Past mistakes are a mirror. I see the reflection of my former self against the reflection of my brother, Jesus, standing next to me. With just a glance, I walk away and have no appetite for the former things.
Forget my last name today, Lord. I am Christine – of God’s heart. Amen