Monday, August 20, 2018
Stories in the Small Spaces of Scripture
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.
The words flooded the tent where Joseph's brothers congregated. The words floated around with the frustration that their brother had ratted them out. The air was heavy with anger as steam poured from his brothers' noses, difficult to know if it was because of the cold night air or the feeling of being betrayed or both.
It really wasn't that bad the brothers tried to rationalize and reason as they walked around the tent unable to sit down with the restlessness of irritation.
After all what was it really that they had done?
Let the flock of sheep fend for themselves for awhile while they snuck away to some fun?
Or was it that they were making fun and mocking their father behind his back? We all do that, they had concluded.
Or was it planning and plotting what life would be like without dear old dad, when they were finally running the show? It was just idle chatter to pass the time.
What was the bad report?
Was it something more devious? Was it something more worthy of a Nora Roberts' romance novel where Joe's brothers were meeting up with women of questionable morals out there in the wilderness?
Was it something frivolous?
Was it a one-off, something that Joseph had just witnessed on that one, small, tiny occasion and blew out of proportion?
Of course the real question underneath all of this was, How could he do this?
When someone hurts and harms us unexpectedly. When the wounds someone's words inflict cut deeper than any weapon. Sure we might have all chanted out on the school playground, "Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," but soon enough we all learn the lie hiding in the small spaces of those words. Words hurt us more than we can ever say. Especially words that fall from the lips of those we think are on our side. Friends who said they had our back. People who pledged their allegiance through thick and thin...suddenly the hallow emptiness of that oath rings out in our heart.
You don't have to have been in the tent that night with the brothers to know this story is true.
You have that friend.
You have that coworker.
You have that story.
You have that family member.
How could she do this? How could he say that?
Bad reports, we know those. We have felt the heavy weight of being called out on something we perhaps wanted to keep hidden. It isn't just those childhood stories of being the one who broke mother's favorite lamp and swept it under the rug. The Bible, C.S. Lewis said, is an adult book for adults. We see this around us today. People pointing fingers proclaiming, "They are the problem. Its all their faults." We wake up every morning to the "bad reports" plastered across CNN's website, which doesn't even tell us all the "bad reports" because we are so caught up in the latest tweets that we miss people in other parts of our world who are really hurting. "Bad reports," we know those personally when we look at relationships that once thrived and are now non-existent. We know that pain that can cause tears to get caught in the back of our throats before they can well up in our eyes.
"Bad reports" don't stop when we graduate and stop being given grade. They can follow us into our work life and now go by the name, "Performance review". "Bad reports" don't seem to ever retire when we leave work. They keep coming when someone tells us she had cancer or the friend says he is moving away.
Perhaps it is less about what Joseph said and more about those "bad reports" you are still carrying with you. After all, as Richard Rohr says, "Pain that is not processed is passed along." Is there some report that it is time for you to send through the shredder?
Is there some report you need to stop clinging to so tightly because your knuckles are turning white?
Is there some report you have let define and confine you, which you need to break free from?
For we believe there is One who saw both Joseph's brothers and sees us as more than any one report.
And there is more than a trace of God's grace in that.
Blessings and peace ~~