I have lost count of how many times over my lifetime, I have planned my escape. As a kid, it was always either running away from school or running away from home. It was only a plan … There was never a follow through but deep in my heart… Days when the work hours were long and tedious and there is no reward or as a young mum getting up countless times to a screaming baby or dealing with a toddler is has not had enough sleep …In light of what some people in the world are facing, my plans of escape seem trivial but in the moment the plan gives me some sort of relief.
I am getting better at understanding what triggers my flight plan and my yearning to escape … Escaping the hard stuff or the current circumstances or the people who are hurting me or not listening or seeing or acknowledging me and even my yearning to flee from myself. Sometimes it is a crazy season or even the consequences of my own choices beginning to play out. Other times it is the desire to run away from what is requiring me to be brave or fearless when I feel like hiding under the bed. Other times it is my need of rest and the absence of peace. Sometimes it is when God’s plan and my saying ‘yes’ to Him is not the easy or pleasant path but requires walking through a dark and difficult valley which I would rather not walk through or climbing out of the valley which is steep and exhausting.
When I feel the yearning to escape, I have found biblical narratives my dearest friends. It takes looking closely at the lives of those who were brave and followed through with HIS plan,to help me get perspective and remain steadfast. Joseph is just one of these…
Joseph shows me that escape is always good if it means escape from temptation . Joseph shows me , through incredible opposition or difficulty I too can stand and fight for my calling and my destiny.
Today it is the backdrop To Joseph’s story that brings me encouragement. It is his dad’s story of an encounter with God, and his grandpa’s story and his great grandpa’s story and this becomes his story and my story. I’m talking about Israel , Isaac, Abraham….
Those stories form a backdrop to my own story.
Today I am reminded of his dad’s story : one of a mother, (Rebecca) who called her son ‘deceiver’ and proceeded to teach him how to be such but an encounter with the Lord of Hosts helps him define his future not run from it. His limp reminds him of his identity and internal wrestle. His name declares his identity . The Lird first asks him his name then tells him he is no longer to be called ‘ Deceiver’ . He is now able to escape what he was never meant to be and embrace a new name – Israel – one who has prevailed and wrestled with God. Joseph is the son of the one who prevailed and wrestled with God.
When all Jospeh has known is favouritism on one hand and the tention of sibling jealousy on the other, how did he respond, when a plot twist happens in his story…not for good but for evil. He knows that God can bring a plot twist at any time. For twenty years, God’s plan for Joseph is not to turn around his circumstances but to keep him on the difficult path and and take him down the path of humble marginalisation with no idea that a turn around will ever happen. Joseph did not have the stories of the Bible to feed his faith like we do yet we are quick to quit, and dispair at the slightest sniff of trouble.
From the moment his designer jacket is stripped from his shoulders we see that his faith in God and his ability to honour God has nothing to do with what he is wearing and where his feet tread. In a sheep field, as a leader in his Father’s house or as a servant in an official’s home or as a prisoner serving the master jailer, he is clothed in dignity, strength and integrity. One day he will stand on a podium serving a pharaoh who needs that wisdom, strength and integrity. God is getting him ready and escaping is not part of this story but a turn around is. When God has a jacket of challenging circumstances to clothe me in and he calls it favour, Joseph teaches me how to respond to this new jacket. Escaping his jacket for me is not his plan.
When internally, we smell the dampness of the well of betrayal, and hear the whispers of ridiculous and hurtful accusations or we feel the heat of the desert floor under our feet and see only the back end of the camels ahead, or right now you feel the shame of being sold out for less than you are worth … Or someone in trying to save themselves, points the fingers at us and lands us in a dungeon…Joseph reminds us that this is not the end of the story but part of the crazy roller coaster ride that saying YES to God includes the hard stuff. Maybe today, temptation to sacrifice your integrity is simply feeding your yearning to escape. Maybe your choice to do the right thing finds you inside a cell of false accusations and the darkness and stench of this cell has left you feeling powerless and at the mercy of neglect. God is with you right where you are and he knows your name. It may not be the name given to you but a name that devalues who He says you are.
My encouragement today is that Joseph proves to me that character, integrity, purity and forgiveness are possible. It doesn’t matter where I find myself in this story except that nothing happening to me externally needs to change who I am internally.
Joseph at 17 , 21, 25, 29 however long it took, whatever was being said and the being told abut him back home, back in potiphers house or back in the cell didn’t change who he was and what God had in store. Tonight I feel God reminding me that his faihfulness does not arrive in palaces. It comes wrapped in the colourful garments of betrayal and neglect. Joseph stayed unshakable in his integrity.
His attitude in the prison was no different to what it was in the palace. Am I only going to shine in the highlights and not in the low light or no lights? I honestly would love to sit down with Jacob and ask him…what is it that that you spoke over you son Jospeh that helped him deal with the reversals of his life and choose to remain committed to God through it all. . Even when he was facing the very ones who had betrayed him, and watched bow down in front of him just as he had been promised… he left the room and wept. His heart remained soft. He understood the plan. We don’t know if he cried in the bottom of the well of betrayal or when he entered a strangers home as a slave but we do know he wept when he saw his brothers. Not because he was bitter but it all made sense and he felt compassion and he got it…he understood that pain and grief were part of the plan. How do I respond to those who God uses to deliver faithfulness in a garment of pain. Joseph wept with deep sobs not from a place of resentment and unforgiveness but a deep sense of understanding why escape was not part of the plan….
Every test became the step that bought him closer to his role in bringing deliverance to a nation and to the nations but at no time could Jospeh see the end of the story. We too can get caught up in the detail of the moment or season we are in and find ourselves caving to the emotion instead trusting His ways are perfect and escape is my plan to run away from the possibility to show his strength is made perfect in my weakness.