Monday, September 23, 2013

The Bigger Picture

One of the comments last week was about God's "plan." Personally, I've always been really disheartened by talk of God's "plan" because who the heck knows what that is? It's a black hole of shrugs. So whenever I feel disturbed and need to know why  something is happening or how it can ever be better, a reference to God's "plan" can fill me with rage. As a Christian. So I really understand how non-Christians can be done in by it.

We're closing out our Joseph detour in Hebrews 11 by going to his verse:
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. - Hebrews 11:22
We really went over the big parts of Joseph's life in the past three posts, so why is something at his death the big deal? Why are a few words concerning something that was very far out and not even fathomed by others at this point, that being their descendants' enslavement in and exodus from Egypt? 

Every day that Joseph spent as a slave, and every day that he was locked up in a prison was for one purpose. And that purpose is revealed when Joseph's brothers come to apologize and offer themselves up as his slaves in Egypt: 
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. - Genesis 50:19-20.
Joseph went through what he went through so he would be in a position to save lives as Prime Minister/Vizier of Egypt. Understanding and acknowledging that seems like a HUGE faith moment, but it's not the moment that is mentioned in Hebrews 11.Through everything he went through, Joseph's eye wasn't to his own issues but rather to the everlasting covenant that God had made to him through Abraham. Joseph's faith was in the bigger picture, and he knew he wouldn't live to see the bigger picture, so he wanted his bones carried out of Egypt to the Promised Land with his people. The same people who had betrayed and deserted him to some cruel fates. He could've dwelt on that issue, but he saw the Bigger Picture...and it included them.

Those squiggles represent "mystery" and that's supposed to be a sun in the corner...
I never see the Bigger Picture, because I'm very focused on the little picture. That's why comments about God's "plan" will likely be met with an eye roll. The little picture excludes a lot of people who have a role in both your life and God's overall plan. I often ignore these people, dismiss them, or flat out hate them because they're not in my little picture, so who cares?! The little picture is simply SO much easier to see. Since I can see everything in the little picture, it requires zero faith...and I think (I don't know) that in the absence of faith there exists despair. If Joseph didn't have faith beyond his situation, but just looked at the little picture and all the things in it and analyzed them...he would've lost it. I have no doubt, he would've totally lost it.

I lose it on a regular basis. But I'm praying for faith to look at the bigger picture so that it will drive out all of my fear and despair, so that I can open up myself to others when I really want to close myself off. So I can be joyful when everything in the little picture is sad. And so I can leave room for God to turn it all around, instead of confine myself to the frame of small tragic picture. It's super hard, but whoever said that genuine faith was easy?

"The worst thing in my whole life became the most beautiful thing..." 
- Tye Tribbett "Beauty for Ashes"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Christian Mingle: Beyond your Wildest Dreams?

It's been a long time since I've written about my dating life. But I saw something a few weeks ago on that gave me pause:

Education: Some College
Occupation: Attorney/Professor*

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?! It's kind of like: "something isn't quite right here..." While you can be both an attorney and a professor. You can be neither of them with just "some college." It just doesn't make sense.

But...sometimes in life, things don't seem to fit. So I started to wonder how Joseph's ChristianMingle account would be set up (we're sticking with Joe Manganiello as Joseph):

How did he get here?! Three weeks ago he was in Bon Temps, I mean, prison and now he's the Vizier/Prime Minister of Egypt?

Back to Genesis.

Two years after the chief baker was freed/restored to his position, Pharaoh had a dream that couldn't be interpreted. And suddenly we're here. And, I honestly don't know what it feels like to suddenly be at "your moment" but Joseph is in his moment. Thirteen years (13 years!) he's been either a slave or a convicted criminal. In that situation, what would your opinion be of God? For 13 years he believed and declared God to be "good" and faithful, when it didn't make a ton of sense. The bible repeatedly says Joseph had favor, but he was a highly favored slave and convict. That context matters...doesn't it? But I digress.

Pharaoh has a wild dream, and the chief baker finally remembers Joe. So they bring him in and Pharaoh says:

“In my dream, behold, I was standing on the bank of the Nile; and behold, seven cows, fat and sleek came up out of the Nile, and they grazed in the marsh grass. Lo, seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and gaunt, such as I had never seen for ugliness in all the land of Egypt; and the lean and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows. Yet when they had devoured them, it could not be detected that they had devoured them, for they were just as ugly as before. Then I awoke. I saw also in my dream, and behold, seven ears, full and good, came up on a single stalk; and lo, seven ears, withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them; and the thin ears swallowed the seven good ears. Then I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.” - Genesis 41:17-24

But Joseph, empowered by God, interpreted the dreams to be about a famine. That there would be 7 years of awesome plenty, and then 7 years of tragic, debilitating, Great Depression x 1000 famine. And he just made a few suggestions about how to prepare for this economic and climactic disaster.

Pharaoh was floored.

Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you. - Genesis 41:38-40

And that's how Joseph came upon a really weird, but really awesome ChristianMingle profile. But it made me think of two NT scriptures that are really encouraging. Joseph's life really sucked. Majorly. this is not up for dispute, but God can change your situation so a crazy way.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong 
- 1 Corinthians 1:26-27

How did those magicians feel when they brought this guy out from the dungeon to do what they couldn't do?

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21

I bet all Joseph wanted was to go home! All Joseph wanted was to not be in prison! But man...look at how much more God had in store for him. Thirteen years in the making. Something beyond his wildest dreams.

*I talked to that guy, and he said that was a mistake. He laughed and said: "yeah, I did 'some college' and then some more!" Careful on those profiles fellas. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Law of Variation

Is this blog about Darwin's book The Origin of Species? Nope. So if my title threw you, apologies. This blog is, yet again, about comparisons (through the lens of Joseph).

And it made me think of Facebook. Facebook is a place where all the people who in the past, were in the same place in life as you, are gathered and noted for their current variation. And in many cases, this variation makes you feel a certain way. And for the purpose of this blog, the law of variation is this: People who are doing better than me make me sad; while people who are doing worse than me make me grateful.

I'll be on Facebook, sometimes, using it alternately as reasons to beat myself up or as therapy. But is that okay? Scripture says that people who compare themselves to other people are "without understanding" (2 Corinthians 10:12). I'm often just like that. Totally without understanding, so I'm seeking to educate myself, via this blog.

We're at the point in the story where Joseph is in prison for attempted rape.

Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. So he put them in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned. The captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them, and he took care of them; and they were in confinement for some time. - Genesis 40:2-4

The cupbearer and the baker were in the "same place" in life as Joseph. And they were in there for a while, so they became friends. Joseph took care of them. 

One night these two guys have dreams. And they can't figure out what they mean; so they become super sad. Joseph says “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.”

The dreams in themselves are interesting, but for the purpose of brevity Joseph interpreted the dreams to mean (1) that in 3 days the cupbearer would be released and restored to his position; (2)  that in 3 days the chief baker would be executed for his crime. 

And it happened just that way. But Joseph remained in prison. may be thinking: where are you going with this? 

I'm thinking: why am I nothing like Joseph? If Joseph had been like me...the law of variation would have come into play. I would've started thinking about what people "deserve." Joseph had spent considerable time with these two men; they'd been in the same place for a long time. But things were about to change...for everyone except Joseph. If I was Joseph, all I would be able to think about is how we were all in the same place, except they actually deserved to be there (as they actually offended Pharaoh), whereas I was innocent and "deserved" to be free. So, if I looked at the cupbearer, I'd be pissed. And if I looked at the chief baker I'd think: "well...I could be that guy". However, there is zero indication that Joseph thinks like me. None.

Darwin break: 

“When a variation is of the slightest use to a being, we cannot tell how much of it to attribute to the accumulative action of natural selection, and how much to the conditions of life.” And the poor match between environment and patterns of variation “incline[s] me to lay very little weight on the direct action of the conditions of life.” - Darwin, Origin of Species, Ch. 5

There was just a variation in their little trio. Three people who were in the same boat, are now in three totally different situations, through no action of their own. One is free. One is dead. And one remains imprisoned. If I go with Darwin...this makes sense. Per the above quote, very little weight falls on condition, and nearly all of it falls on natural selection. But in the mind of a Christian, that "natural selection" is the will, purpose, and the plan of God. 
This is a hard pill to swallow sometimes, because we think so highly of ourselves (even though we shouldn't; Romans 12:3) and by comparison so little of others (even though we shouldn't; Philippians 2:3). Thinking the way we do, we don't understand why we remain imprisoned (in whatever situation you happen to view as your "prison"). But, regardless of the changes happening in the lives of the people around us, we have to believe that God is with us even in the prison. 

And you can see that Joseph believed in this, from what he said before the change even took place:
“Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.”Joseph knows that God is with him and working through him despite of everything that his been through. 

Joseph didn't use comparisons to the cupbearer to fall into a depression, and then use a comparison to the chief baker to dig himself out of it. He kept his focus on God's work for him, and he only asked the cupbearer, "keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house" (Genesis 40:14). 

But you know what? That guy totally forgot about him (Genesis 40:23). And I would think that's because Joseph can't catch a break...but it was because of the will, purpose, and plan of God. be continued.