Climbing Out From A Father’s Shadow

Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. Genesis 48:21

When good fathers are alive, their children dwell securely under their shade. God’s favor is on the father, and by extension, the sons and daughters who share his faith. The children might not think about the day when their father no longer lives. If they do, they wonder if God’s favor will shadow them in the same way.

How reassuring were Jacob’s words to Joseph. “I am about to die but God will be with you.” Didn’t Joseph already know that? God had brought him safely through slavery, captivity, and enthronement. But ascending a throne in Egypt is not the same as stepping into the role of a patriarch within ‘the’ covenant family. It was easier for him to follow in Jacob’s footsteps while he was alive than to step into his shoes after death. This very thing, every son of a larger-than-life father, feels.

In taking Joseph to Egypt, God gave him distance between his iconic father and himself. He became his own person, a unique son of Yahweh. The sons of famous fathers must do the same today. Leave home. In their father’s shadow, it is difficult to know themselves and to also give themselves permission to be different from what others expect. How unfair to hear, “He not like his father.” Or, “He’s going to be just like his father!”  Either way, it’s a pile of expectations. The public sees perfection. The family sees the humanity. We are god-makers by our fallen natures and cast this heavy burden upon their children.

Like you perhaps, I’m aware that the story would be different if Reuben, or Judah, or Simeon had become the vice-chancellor of Egypt. Great fathers don’t always raise great sons. Joseph was great because God had his hand on him and cast him into refining fires early in life. The others stayed in their father’s shade, resented his faith, and acted out a kind of teenage rebellion throughout their adult lives.

I’m married to the son of an iconic father ~ a larger-than-life evangelist. No matter where we go, Ron is Jack Wyrtzen’s son. Expectations have always been high. At 32, God called Ron away from his father’s organization to become the unique leader he is today. He was cast into great refining fires for two decades. Today, he is a great man much like his father but different from his father. He has been a ‘Jesus’ in the business world instead of in ministry. Carving out God’s path for himself would not have happened without time and distance but this has proven true ~ As God was with Jack Wyrtzen, God has been, and is, with Ron Wyrtzen. I see God’s favor on him every single day as he brings the kingdom to our world with wisdom, holy restraint, and grace.

You made me. Only You should shape Your own creation. Strengthen the holy legacies with our fathers and break the back of idolatry. Amen

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