What Might Have Been

In his poem, Maud Muller, written in 1856 John Greenleaf Whittier wrote about a beautiful maid, Maud Muller, who was working in a field when the town’s judge rode by on horseback.  The maid thought she would like to be a wealthy judge’s wife while the judge daydreamed of living the simple, care free life of a farmer who was married to that young maid.  Each one would marry another and spend the rest of his or her life in regret, wondering what it would have been like married to the other.  He summed up by observing, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

We do ourselves a disservice, as Maud Muller and the judge did, if we persistently live our lives in the past.  But we can also learn lessons from missed opportunities.

Psalm 81 is a what-might-have-been psalm.  It recalls the great times of God’s deliverance of an enslaved people.  Unfortunately it also tells the story of the same people living in rebellion. In verses 11-12, the psalmist writes, “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.” God let them experience the consequences of their sins instead of the blessings he wanted to give them.

But the good news is that when God sees us he is always thinking about what yet may be.  Verse 13 says “Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!”  If they but do this, God would save them from their enemies (v. 14) and give them “the finest of the wheat” and “honey from the rock.”  In spite of missed opportunities, we can still live blessed and productive lives.  Instead of sorrowfully regretting misspent lives, let’s offer God the lives that we have left.  Don’t wait till some distant day in the future.  Seize the moment and determine today and every day after live your life for God to the fullest!