"……….Joseph, sold as a slave into Egypt, with chains of iron around his legs and neck. Joseph remained a slave until his own words had come true, and the LORD had finished testing him." (Psalms 105:17b-19 CEV)
I've heard a lot lately about testing…..about God's timing and God's awareness of the plight of His children as they struggle in the depths of this fallen world, prey to many temptations, many trials and many (too many) sorrows. My nieces spoke of a friend who is only 13, but is so broken upon the mantle of this world that he tried to commit suicide by freezing himself out in the cold today……not the quickest or best attempt (as I can testify to) but one that cries out of his anguish of this world that is set so harshly against him. This isn't the exception to the norm anymore….we have progressed so far from the biblical design of society, community, family and personal accountability that such anguish from a generation taught it doesn't matter is the norm……
My heart breaks when I think how selfish I can be while dealing with my own struggles……….and how, but for the grace of caring friends and dear ones, I am but a step….a very small step….from being that 13 year old……as we all are.
I wonder how many times Joseph fell upon his knees and begged for a bit of mercy…..a bit of restraint. I'm sure he cried out in the darkness of the prison and the loneliness of his separation from his family and asked the Lord to step in to his life to bring about the purpose of those original dreams…..where his family would bow down to him. Not because it was a domination wish of his but because it was so much better than the brokenness of the life he was living.
God wasn't quite done with him yet when the brothers sold him into slavery…..there were finishing touches to polish.
I look back on the six years coming up on February 14th when I surrendered myself to God and the months later the same year where He showed me a bit of that purpose, a tasting of that promise. I have been 'forced' to look behind me as I walk in this journey accompanied by some friends. It is a darkness that is impenetrable with even the best of intentions, but that seem to slide away like butter as God is walking with me to reveal those things which hang me up in the temptations and trials of this life. Some have been healed, only to reveal the wounds festering underneath. Others cannot heal or will not be healed until the Lord comes again
I have a long way to go, despite the long way I have come from where I once was.
Add to the process of working with the collapsed structure of myself the 'sweet complication' of someone who is 'interested' in me and that work becomes complex and delicate even as it is exciting and wild. Unlike Joseph, I haven't done well in the testing department. But God, in His wisdom, just starts again with the intentional testing of His child…..enticing, attracting and desiring me (and no other) to the work He has set aside for me
Joseph was sold into slavery because he incited his brothers' wrath, by declaring himself the object of their allegiance in the dreams, and propelled their dislike for their favored brother into action. If Joseph had never spoken of the dream, would his brothers have done what they did? Who knows……at any point in the story of Joseph, whether in jail, in the jailer's house, or in front of the King…he could've taken his own opportunity in hand and tried to make it work out the way he wanted it to. But he didn't…….he let God do what God intended to do.
In the moment of testing, our true nature reveals itself…..it cannot be hidden in the moment under careful thought, ponderous decision-making or legitimate considerations. In the moment where our character is challenged, our heart reveals its nature…..in our actions.
And in that moment where we are face to face with the sinfulness and weakness of our humanity…..we fall flat upon the face of our corruption…..and feel so far from our Creator that desolation is the only music we hear…..I am sure that Joseph felt those moments, questioned his dreams and purpose…..and re-orientated himself to God in that darkness of the well, cell or accusations……
Each step building upon the other until he arrived at the moment God had purposed for him……tested and trued.
We fail…….even the mightiest among us, those professional Christians who walk upon the stages of the world, writing books of theology and understanding and gather us together each Sunday for a time of worship, teaching, and fellowship……even them. We anguish in the sorrow of the moment after, we justify the actions taken for a few moments and then admit our failures……we come to the realization that our testing isn't over, our lessons aren't learned and we slink out of God's garden burdened with the haunting of sins now past.
We fail because we haven't changed the core reasons why we do what we do……..and like the saying goes, "You'll know a tree by its fruit."
There are things that I thought, because the situations hadn't come around again, that I was 'cured' from…..only to find myself faced with them and falling back upon my sinful past, because I'm not prepared…..I haven't overwritten my heart's natural tendencies with godly tendencies…….
Even then, it is in the twilight of our shame that we can find God's redeeming grace and powerful mercy. We do not have to accept our failure as the norm but as the new exception…..we will seek out the root of our weeds and pull them permanently from our lives…..through the testing of our life under the harsh light of God's holiness…..a holiness we ourselves were called to wear.
A face we were called to recall in the eyes of those who see us…….images of our Father
"As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." (Psalm 17:15)
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