Monday, August 27, 2018
Stories in the Small Spaces of Scripture
But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
When we last left Joseph...in the span of three verses we were introduced to Jacob's family, met Jacob's seventeen-year-old son, Joseph, learned they were shepherds by trade, learned that Joseph had apparently witnessed his brothers doing something so heinous that it necessitated a "bad" report (although we are left to image what exactly prompted the "bad" report), and that as a reward or thank you gift or just because Jacob loved Joseph soooooooo much, Jacob gave Joseph a coat.
That was four!! verses. I remember growing up I watched soap operas with my grandmother, that would have been enough material to last two season! Clearly the Biblical Story teller doesn't know how to stretch out a scene for all it is worth. Because, in the end, those four verses are really just a set up for what is coming next. And the verse above is the turning point. The point after which the musical score would turn to a minor key with the brothers glaring their icy glares in the direction of Joseph, who I image naively dancing, prancing, walking around in his new coat like he is a fashion model on the runway all whist singing, "I feel pretty...oh so pretty...I feel pretty, witty, and smart."
You see, that is how you stretch out a Biblical scene worthy of a soap opera!
There is, of course, deep, deep heartbreak found in the words above. The animosity and anger radiates off your screen still thousand of years later. The words, "hated him," are harsh and hard to read. And, like so much of the Bible, I don't have to have attended the Jacob family reunion to know there is truth in these words.
We live in a time when of such division and tension that has caused families now to be unable to talk peaceably to each other. We have blocked each other on Facebook, stop following one another on Instamgram, we cannot believe our brother or sister would watch that newscast (which we all know is "fake news"), we are so hurting and upset and carry around unprocessed pain. We know the tension that must have hung in the air at the family meals in Jacob's house, because we felt that at Thanksgiving last year. We know words spoken quickly and hurt that won't heal, because things have been said in our families over the course of time that have left deep woundedness. We know Joseph and his brothers...because we all have families.
When you read the above paragraph, my hunch is that there was a family member who flitted through your mind. When have you worn the sandals of Joseph's brothers, unable to speak "peaceably" to someone? And, yes, I do realize that there are lots of good reasons to not speak "peaceably" to someone. Please know, I am not about to say, "You need to take the high road". I am not trying in any way to smear guilt on a difficult situation.
But I know that when our pain is confined to the cobweb filled corners...
When we try to push down those relationships...
When we just put on a happy face and try to be Midwestern nice and live in denial...
In all those moments we can feel trapped with no good options. Part of what I find so fascinating about Scripture is that these stories are our stories. These painful moments keep happening in our lives thousands of years later. True, today it is much more likely that politics or ethics or beliefs are the topics to cause the riff in our relationships rather than a coat, I think we can see that the coat is a metaphor.
I ask you to hold the person; family member; friend in prayer today. Not try to race toward forgiveness, because when we are too quick to forgive as something we have to do that can feel like cheap grace...or forced grace...or half-hearted grace...which is to say, not grace at all. To just hold that person in prayer. Say the person's name, perhaps without your teeth clinched or your shoulders tightening.
I don't think Joseph's brothers could look at him or say his name. Their anger became the fuel that fed their lives and that is happening all around us today.
To speak a name.
To sit with the difficult.
To invite God in...not with guilt...but simply to be with you.
May there be MORE than a trace of God's grace in that for you this day.