Re-Grouping For The Next Phase

RE-GROUPING FOR THE NEXT PHASE

And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. Genesis 43:27-30

            Joseph had it all planned out. He would test his brothers, temporarily incarcerate Simeon, send them back to Canaan and then return to Egypt with Benjamin, and all the while, none of his family would know who he was. The next phase would be more personal, more difficult to play out without disclosing his own identity. How would he serve them a meal, see Benjamin, and then talk of their father without his heart giving way? Years of pent up grief and homesickness were bubbling at the surface, begging escape. The only recourse when weeping was close to exploding was to excuse himself to re-group in private. He kept them waiting while he wept in the next room.

            Knowing when to re-group can be tricky. When emotions are strong, whether grief, anger, or frustration, it’s hard to reign them in for a better time. I don’t believe I have the restraint to keep overwhelming feelings in check instead of express them. Continue reading

When It Feels Like The End

WHEN IT FEELS LIKE THE END

And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. Genesis 43:21-13

         Who would have thought that too much money in their sacks would be a problem? That’s a good problem unless the ruler of Egypt has your future in his hands and will perceive that the money is stolen. Then you have some explaining to do. It appears that fast-talking will be your only salvation. How limited their spiritual perspective is! They do not know that the ruler they fear is Joseph. They do not know that God is writing the plotline of this severe testing of character. Ignorance is a good thing. If they knew, perhaps their people pleasing would kick in ~ in order to gain favor. After all, they, and their children, were hungry.

         Ah, God does all things well. A spiritual test is never enjoyable. It takes me to edge where, for a moment, everything hangs in the balance. What I think, what I do, all seems so critical and so fragile. Never is the war of the flesh stronger than when I am reacting to a customized test from God. He knows just how to take me to the end of myself in order to confront what is in my heart. When I arrive at that ‘ugly thing’ I’ve not been willing to see before now, I expect His hand to come sweeping down to pronounce a death sentence. I’m positive that it will be my ultimate humiliation. Continue reading

Getting Close To Mercy

GETTING CLOSE ENOUGH TO MERCY

When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants. Genesis 43:16-18

         The brother’s history of sin against Joseph makes them skittish. Rightly so. How many would forgive being sold into slavery by a family member? (And it’s happening today all over the world.) Though it has been nearly two decades, to them it feels like yesterday. Though they didn’t know Joseph’s identity yet, their guilty conscience causes them look for God’s judgment anywhere it can be found. They assume that this ruler in Egypt will be the instrument of God’s discipline. While they prepare for hardship, Joseph prepares a feast in their honor. Mercy is not rational.

         When I consider my past sins, I can turn away from God in fear. I cannot conceive (though I know a lot about the cross) that God will have the face of mercy instead of judgment.

         There’s a new song out by Big Daddy Weave called Overwhelmed. It’s currently my husband’s favorite song. Here is the part of the song that I hear him singing throughout the day.

God, I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You.

         It is not possible to describe the gift of God’s mercy. He brings me close when I should be alienated. He forgives when I should be punished. He makes me a friend when I have proven to be His enemy. He opens His arms wide when I’m convinced that all access to Him will be locked.

         Joseph is a type of Jesus. He shows us what unthinkable mercy looks like. My part is to dare to believe such good news. How tragic to run from God my whole life, only to discover that I ran from mercy. In His hands, He holds the robe of His son. He waits to put it around my shoulders. When I wear it, I am as sinless as His Son, Jesus. Mercy not only forgives, it removes my sin completely.

Mercy is free but it’s on the other side of true remorse. Show me the difference between remorse and living with a guilty conscience. Amen

What I Long For

WHAT I LONG FOR

            May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”. Genesis 43:14

            Since Joseph’s disappearance, Jacob had held Benjamin close. He wasn’t going to let him out of his sight for fear that some bad end would also come to him. Years of playing God had become normal but in his old age, God tested him. For all to live, Benjamin must go to Egypt. Jacob didn’t give in easily. At the first suggestion, he adamantly refused. Only famine and the threat of extinction wore him down. He finally abdicated. “If I lose all my children, then so be it.”

            Are you tired of fighting? You’ve held on to hope and clutched your dream. You’ve not let anyone too close for fear that your resolve would be challenged. You’ve controlled things quite artfully. No one knows that your iron will is fragile. I know. I’ve been a dreamer, too.

            No one can predict the moment when I will stop fighting. My resolve to make things work crumbles. Continue reading

When God Hems You In

WHEN GOD HEMS YOU IN

Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ Genesis 43:1-3

            Does God sometimes confine His child? Yes.   Perhaps you object. “What happened to the God of spacious places?”  He’s that, too. There’s a time and a season for everything. When it’s time to train and direct a child’s steps, a Father confines. When it’s time to deliver, confinement ends and spacious places begin. For our good, God initiates both.

            There were a few times in my life when God asked me to do something extremely difficult. I objected and had many reasons why it wasn’t possible; I didn’t feel I could handle it, I felt it was a mistake deep in my spirit, and/or I didn’t want to face a certain issue. Jacob knew this kind of dread. He swore that Benjamin would never go to Egypt. He made this paternal declaration to his sons; the kind that children know is definitive. They knew not to argue.

            But then God overruled. Famine increased; food decreased. Options disappeared. God hemmed him in so that the only option was Egypt. I’m sure it seemed to Jacob like he’d never see Benjamin again. Was he frustrated that God didn’t provide another way? Probably. It probably seemed like God was cruel. Yet, eternal purposes prevailed and confinement initiated a lifesaving journey for the tribes of Israel. Egypt was the doorway to their future.

            There are so many ways God confines for my good. He can make me so uncomfortable in a job that I realize it’s time to leave. Misunderstood, rejected, unappreciated….these are often the catalysts for ultimate change. He can also cause this discomfort so that I learn to treasure Him above my own comfort. Continue reading

When I’ve Reached My Limit

WHEN I’VE REACHED MY LIMIT!

And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.” Genesis 42:36-38

         Have you ever had a “That’s it, I quit!” moment? Over the long haul, you had held your tongue, you kept functioning, you stayed civil in a strained relationship, and you weren’t even aware that you were so fragile on the inside. But then it happened. It might have even been a little thing that sent you over the edge but there was no more elastic in your spirit to assume the weight of it. You snapped.

         Jacob’s breaking point was in this part of the story. Joseph is dead. Simeon has been seized by an Egyptian ruler and imprisoned. (None of them knew that the ruler was Joseph.) Now, in order to release Simeon, they must bring back another brother, the prized child of their father. Jacob’s soul rips the rest of the way. This was his limit and he declares there is no way that he will release Benjamin to anyone’s care but his own.

         Everyone has a limit. The issues vary. The amounts of stress vary. The ways each person abdicates his hope vary. Some cry. Some erupt with strong words. Some just walk away and never look back. Continue reading

When Tears Are Complicated

WHEN TEARS ARE COMPLICATED

And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. Genesis 42:22-24

         The meaning of tears is often complicated. If someone pinned me down and asked me why Joseph cried in this scene, I couldn’t definitively say. There are probably many reasons. He heard his brothers discuss their sin against him in person. He loved them but was sad about their sin. He was grieved over the testing he was about to inflict. These are just three possible causes for why he turned his back to weep privately.

         Jesus asked Mary, “Why are you crying?” I often don’t know myself. I’ve used all the clichés. “I just need a good cry.” “I don’t know why I’m crying.” “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

         How much weeping is done without knowledge of what’s buried down deep? A lot. We really don’t know ourselves as God knows us. I often ask Him, “Why am I so upset by this? Show me, please.” I have a Father who, not only sees every tear but, could write a novel on what each one means. When emotions swirl in my head and form nothing but cobwebs, Abba can sort them out. Strand by strand, he disentangles the web and gives insight into the matters of my own heart. If I don’t know myself through God’s eyes, I don’t know myself at all.

         Is there anything more painful than to cry and to experience ridicule while doing it? “There she is – crying again.” They believe a mountain is being made out of a molehill. They think they know why there are tears when, in fact, they often have no idea.   No wonder we are trained so young to hide our tears and stuff the bulk of them into the dark places of our soul. There, they stagnate, accumulate, and turn us into stoics.

         When betrayals are as personal and complicated as Joseph’s, tears will be plentiful. For any today who can’t find an end to their weeping and can’t seem to find resolution, the Counselor promises joy in the morning. Closure is promised if I’m willing to put myself into His safe hands.

I don’t need to protect my heart from You, Father. I submit it fully. Amen