READ: Today’s passage took me to Genesis 50:15-21. For expanded reading, the suggested texts are Genesis 37, 42, 45, 50. This is the story of Joseph. You know, the one with the coat of many colors. The one who was a little haughty when he would tell his brothers his dreams. The one whom his brothers knew was most loved because he was the first born of Jacob’s love with Rachel, whom he served 14 years to gain after being denied by Laban, who pulled a bait-and-switch on Jacob at the altar on what should have been the best night of Jacob’s and Rachel’s lives. Yeah…that Joseph.
Well, his brothers got mad and conspired to get rid of him. They couldn’t kill him outright and live with looking at their father, so they threw him down into a pit, sold him to some passersby on their way to Egypt. Then, they killed an animal and smeared the blood on his precious coat, which they had stripped from him. They went home and told Jacob that Joseph had been attacked and killed in the wilderness.
Fast forward several years, Joseph is serving in the house of the Potiphar. The guy’s wife lusts after Joseph and propositions him. Joseph, having Potiphar’s utmost respect and high position in the household, runs from her presence, naked, because Potiphar’s wife grabs after him, ripping his tunic from his body. Then, she says that he had his way with her and that is the end of Joseph’s stay in Potiphar’s house. He is told, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Proceed directly to jail.” (They surely had a version of Monopoly in Egypt. Right?)
So, even though he had been sold into slavery, he managed to work his way out. And, now, he’s sitting in jail. By rights, Potiphar should’ve (or could’ve) had him killed. (I believe he knew there was something fishy in the state of Denmark. Wait! That’s Hamlet. Sorry!) But, he spared Joseph and just threw him into prison.
So…there he sat. I know if I were Joseph, I would be wondering, as I sat in jail, what in the world happened. God, you gave me all these dreams when I was growing up. I thought I knew what they meant and where my life was going to go as a result. But…here I sit. In jail. God, what in the world!!!!
Funny, isn’t it, how God’s plan for our lives never looks the way think it ought to. But, Joseph’s current circumstances (sitting in jail) did not negate the truth of God’s plan for his life. Joseph just didn’t realize it. I also suspect that, maybe, Joseph needed to be humbled. Somewhat. So that nobody BUT GOD could get the glory for what had happened in his life. And let’s face it! I’m pretty sure that if God had let Joseph’s life go the way Joseph thought it might, Joseph – most likely – would’ve taken the credit for it. Granted, Scripture doesn’t say that, outright. But, he was pretty full of himself in his younger days. And his way was paved pretty smoothly until he was sold into slavery. Then, afterwards, HE worked his way up into Potiphar’s house. I imagine he had started to feel like he was bouncing back after than hand that had been dealt him. I know I would’ve. I would’ve felt like this was some sort of vindication, even if it didn’t look like I wanted it to. But, notice, Joseph hadn’t been face-to-face with the people who had “caused” his life to go so sideways. There were still some forgiveness issues that would need to be worked through before God’s work would actually be complete.
THINK: This part of today’s reading challenges us to listen specifically for the word or phrase that touches our heart. Throughout the last three years, I have been holding tightly to Genesis 50:19: “…you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now–life for many people.”
PRAY: Here, we are challenged to think about forgiveness – what it’s like to be the forgiver and to be the forgiven. We are asked how this expression of love is meaningful to us. We are also called to listen for what God is inviting us to do or become this week. “Perhaps his invitation will have to do with a new perspective on who you are in his eyes, or maybe you sense an action he is calling you to take.”
This part speaks to me today in that, I have no question that, had I not been knocked down a peg or two – had “my plans” not been made to go awry or take this unsuspected detour – I would’ve been living my life saying what I’ve been saying since I left my home for Navy boot camp. I left my house believing that my life would be the way I wanted it to be because of the choices I made. For the most part, I like to think I made fairly responsible choices. And, I was choosing to be happy. I had orchestrated my life in such a way that everything made sense, and basically turned out the way I wanted it to, especially when I was obedient to what God was asking me.
Then April 2011 happened. We here T-boned by an accusation so heinous that I couldn’t believe God had been caught off guard. (Yeah, I said it. And, yes, I know the absurdity of that statement. It doesn’t change the fact that I felt that way.)
Then, March 2013 happened. The results of the accusation were that God allowed my husband to go to jail.
“UM…EXCUSE ME! Don’t you know that when I do what I’m told, and I make my requests known believing you will grant them, you are supposed to respond by giving me the desires of my heart?? And, by the way, we had plans! And what about our kids? And…and…and……….
Now, here I sit, reading the story of Joseph. Thinking, “Man, that boy was arrogant! I’m not even his brother and I wanna throw him in a pit, just to shut him up!”
Man….it’s a good thing I’m not like Joseph. I never walked around talking about how perfect my life was and how it was turning out just like I had planned. Why wouldn’t God bless me? Look at how good I am.
I don’t know if you could detect the sarcasm there. If not, trust me, it’s dripping with it. While I was not walking around actually saying those things, I was living them. And God looks at a man’s heart! So…He knew! He knew what I was saying even when there were no words coming out of my mouth. And He also knew that what those words scream is: I WILL BE MY OWN GOD!
I don’t think that this little side trip has derailed God’s plan for our lives. I also don’t think that I have to abandon all my deepest dreams and desires because He has allowed this to happen in our lives. What I do believe, FINALLY, is that the only way God was ever going to get the glory for the things in my life He has done, or permitted, is if I got knocked down off the pedestal I had built for myself so that He could take His Rightful Place in the life of one who calls herself a child of God.
LIVE: “Take time to meditate on the following quite from the Book of Common Prayer (1979), and let it become your own: ‘Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten; nor the hope of the poor be taken away.'”
As I come closer to the end of my education as a counselor, that prayer resonates with me. That is precisely what I hope to do as a counselor: to not forget the needy and to help restore hope to the poor. The only way that I can do that effectively, though, is by directing them to the Comforter. The Healer. To the only one who can actually transform a life. And I cannot do it if I think that I can be the God of my own life. That attitude will spill over into my counseling sessions and I will sound “holier than thou” and, thus, I will fail in our Number One law: First, do no harm.” Harm is all I will be doing! Then, I will be like Paul, not doing the things that I want, but unable to stop doing what I do not want to do.
As I head out to class today, I challenge you to look at those areas of your life where you feel like God has let your life go sideways. Then, TRUST HIM! But then, ask Him to show you if there might be an area in your life where He has been trying desperately to get your attention, but you have been ignoring Him, or missing His point. Then, pray for the courage to face it, HEAD ON, FACE TURNED UP TO HIM. Then, deal with it.