But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:19-20
I can’t get these verses out of my mind. Thrown in a well, sold as a slave, accused of rape, and forgotten in prison… this does not feel like a plan with good intentions. Maybe when I’m older, maybe when I have some hindsight, or maybe when I gain some kind of Holy Spirit inner extra creaminess in my center I will be able to look at someone and say, “I know what you did was malicious and cruel but it is okay,” and not have that sentence end in, “because now I have the power to destroy you! Muahhahaha!”
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” – Old Klingon Proverb
I’m not afraid of failure, but honestly, looking for reason in it fries my brain. My careers at two of the four churches I have served in full-time have ended… disappointingly (I’m sure for everyone involved). I reflect back and ask, “Did I hear God wrong when I thought he was calling me here?” I don’t think so. It seemed so overwhelming. But by the end we are all so hurt that I’m trying to figure out if we as humans just screwed up something God was calling us to or if this is just a pit stop on the way to something else. This is my well. This is my slavers’ caravan. This is my time in the big house. That jerk took my coat. I can play at that all day long, but the kind of closure I’m looking for is clear cut. Well, if I had not left that job at that particular time I would never have met my wife. Oh, I guess if that wouldn’t have happened I wouldn’t be ruling over Egypt, have saved Northern Africa, and have a great 401K. I can forgive bad things for no other reason than Christ forgave me… sometimes I just wish there was a good reason that fueled that forgiveness.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
My brother and I had a falling out. He was 16 and I was 14 and up until that point we had a pretty good relationship. By that I mean we were typical brothers. We drove each other crazy over the smallest of things and sometimes we fought just to fight, but I remember distinctly the day that I was in the locker room at school during gym. All of the freshmen were picked off one by one and thrown into the showers with their clothes on… all but one… me. One ambitious junior took ahold of me and I prepared to fight when his friend pulled him off and warned him that if anything happened to me my brother wouldn’t take it lightly. Even before that I remember playing basketball on the playground before school in fifth grade and I stole the ball from a particularly mean kid and took it down court and scored, pumped my fist, turned around and got punched so hard I went down on the blacktop. The next thing I saw when I looked up was my brother holding that kid above his head and dropping him on the pavement next to me.
But then a lie came between us. The lie was his but he convinced my parents that it belonged to me. So I was punished and his lie was free to grow. As his lie grew into a lifestyle and his indulgence grew into an addiction, the gap between us grew in tandem. But at least I knew who the villain was. At least I knew I was the victim. (Cue melodrama) Oh, if only my brother could turn his life around.
And then, all-of-a-sudden, he did. He found Jesus on the television and gave it all up. He became a good dad, a man of God, a faithful husband… but I never got the apology I wanted. He never threw himself at my feet and begged forgiveness for all the years that blah blah blah. In the end, I called to apologize to him, for the hate and bitterness and offense in my heart. I wasn’t the victim anymore; I had become the volunteer. So I had to quit my own addiction.
I still don’t know if there was purpose in it. I just know I have my brother back. None of the churches I left burned down from the fiery vengeance of God, they just hired other staff. And as it turns out, the earth still spins on its axis without my direct help. I hope someday I can look back and see a continuous thread of God’s will through my life. I hope the bad things will make sense, but probably not. The most important thing I need to decide today: am I going to be a prisoner or am I going to be powerful?