Made Himself Known (Day 18 of A Simple Lent)
After an impassioned plea by Judah, Joseph couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t keep the ruse up. He had to tell his brothers that it was him.
They embrace. They cry tears of joy. They are reconciled.
If we read the Joseph story with literal eyes, it makes no sense, frankly. Even if I grant the prophetic dreaming and the 7 years of abundance to save the land of Egypt during 7 years of famine and the GOD suddenly micromanaging the actions of people in a way GOD didn’t before and doesn’t after. Even if I grant all of that stuff, the regular, mundane actions of the story hang me up.
The beauty of science fiction is that it gets human behavior right. It often captures who we are better than novels written about the present, for the distance gives us a chance to really capture who we are.
The Joseph story doesn’t capture humanity with the same precision. The fantastic is matched with the weirdness of this family.
Joseph Cries A Lot
This weird family, with these 11 brothers who sell their obnoxious brother into slavery, are moved to change, to become humble in the midst of this adversity. In the midst of famine and devastation and their selfish father who ultimately agrees to save the family, you have a story of reconciliation and redemption. The idiot son becomes the savior of the nations of both Egypt and Israel.
And when they are brought together, they weep. They hold each other and weep.
I think this story doesn’t feel real because Joseph isn’t evil or narcissistic or full of hate and longing to abuse his brothers. He doesn’t carry the same problem of his father that his brothers do.
Deception and Revelation
Now, I’m not fond of the trick Joseph is playing on his family. Nor do I completely understand it. We don’t get his motivation in the text. Maybe he’s getting back at them, but it doesn’t feel like it. He doesn’t seem to be harboring a grudge. He is genuinely grateful to see his brothers.
Instead, there is a dance and a negotiation. Something being done for the Egyptian leadership, I suspect. Something which is probably protecting Joseph and his brothers.
For as much as the motivation behind the deception is confusing to me, the revelation is anything but.
The family is reunited, brothers brought together. It is reminiscent for me of how the “other” brother should treat his prodigal brother’s return in the famous parable. With the same joy as the father, embracing, tears of joy and thanksgiving, for what was lost has been found, the one who was dead has been brought back to life!
The Joy of Reconciliation
This week’s homework is to see what happens when we shift the script of our lives just a little. Rather than look around and see all of the stuff that could be of use or gets used sometimes or the clothes we think we look OK in, we instead keep only what brings joy into our lives.
I like joy because it is a religious word. More than happy; bearing that love and thankfulness of GOD. It goes beyond the whimsy of our moods, and speaks to something much deeper.
What if joy is what we surround ourselves with. Not piling joy around us like a hoarder’s home, but making joy the standard, not the more typical standard of “meh” and “I like this OK.” or “this was my grandfather’s.” Instead asking Do I love it? Does the sight of it bring me joy?
And what if we took this same view into our relationships and our work with others? What if we made that vision of weeping, reconciling joy the picture of sufficient and thankful faith? Imagine what a faith of joy and reconciliation could do to transform a life of narcissism and anger! Or a culture of hate and violence!
It would be like gaining a new life. Salvation.
Daily Office Readings
Or visit the alternative Daily Office I often use.
This week’s homework is to surround yourself with what brings joy to your life.
Download the worksheet: A Simple Lent-Handout 3!