15Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
Genesis 5:20 is one of favorite verses in all of scripture. I referenced it in a recent article I wrote which you can read here. My summary of it is that this is something that you can say about an event after the storm has passed. Yes, that thing was awful at the time, but God turned it into something good. It’s much harder to say that in the midst of the storm. Maybe it’s entirely inappropriate. Joseph can tell his brothers, now that the plan has come to completion, that this was all God’s plan. I don’t know if he could have said that from the bottom of the well or languishing in an Egyptian prison.
“it will all work out in the end”. “Everything happens for a reason”. “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. All of those things sound and feel like bullshit when you are in the midst of struggle. When you can’t claim them confidently then you are accused of lacking faith. I think that’s terribly unfair. We drive ourselves insane trying to make meaning of events as they happen. That’s the problem with the 24 hour news cycle, we’re trying to interpret the news as it’s happening and predict the future without stepping back to take a long view. We end up with lessons unlearned, history repeated, and opportunities for growth missed.
I love this part of the story, but I find myself needing reminders that I am not yet at this part of my story. My story is still very much in progress. Yes, everyday offers new lessons to be learned, but there is a long game to be viewed and that often requires us to live in the discomfort of unanswered questions.
“Why did this happen? I don’t know.”
“Why am I here? I don’t know.”
“Where am I going? I don’t know.”
“How’s this all going to work out? I don’t know”
One of the gifts that mindfulness gives me is freedom from a narrative. The story is what’s happening in the present moment; the smells, the sights, the space my body inhabits. When I’m not obsessing about what happened or what is going to happen then I find that I am not wrestling with making-meaning in a way that’s crippling. I confess that so often I want to be at the end of the story, knowing how it all ends, knowing that everything will be alright and in that desire I lose the gift of the present moment. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that faith offers the opportunity for meaning and purpose to arise within us and around us, but we also run the risk of sacrificing the joy of this moment for the intellectual stimulation of analysis and prediction. I believe that what has been used for evil, God will ultimately use for good and that in the end, love will win out. What that means, what that looks like… I have no idea, but maybe if I get out of my way and let love win in each little individual moment, maybe that’s a start…