Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blind Legends and Dreamers

The screen biography of Ray Charles staring Jamie Foxx provides many heart-wrenching moments. In one particular scene, lost and held captive by his blindness, the seven-year-old Ray falls in the center of his shack. Completely disoriented, he screams for his mother to rescue him. He quickly comes to the conclusion she is absent, and so he fights and crawls his way back to reorientation.

The power of the scene lies not is Ray's individual perseverance but in what the movie-goer sees that Ray cannot. While he crawls petrified across the floor desperately looking for an object to give him his bearings, the viewer can see Ray's mother present the entire time, tears streaming down her face. She knows his current struggle will save him in the future. Ray was confident his mother was absent in the moment of desperation, but in spite of his feelings, his reason, and his experience, she was present. Her presence was not limited by his awareness!

That's what I love about the Joseph story. Unlike Moses, Joseph had no burning bush coffee-talk experience with God. Unlike Abraham, three angelic visitors did not show up for pancakes and eggs. Unlike Isaiah, Joseph did not see God in the temple. Beyond a god-given gift to interpret dreams, Joseph did not have a "spiritual experience." He spent the majority of his life believing God was with him, but uncertain. He lacked the hard evidence other biblical characters accumulated.

Finding himself in the belly of a well alone and afraid, I'm sure God seemed aloof. When his brothers sold him to a camel caravan as if he were a goat or donkey, he might of thought God was out to lunch. Standing trial for false accusations of rape..."Uh, God? Where are you?" And finally, in the cold Egyptian dungeon, no one knowing he is there, not one to hear him scream, to cry, no one to answer his loneliness...I'm sure God was gone, at least in his mind.

Sometimes we develop a superhuman perception of Joseph, as if he were bullet proof, able to deflect the ammo of life without so much as a flesh wound. But Genesis tells a different story. His brothers, reflecting back on their choice to sell Joseph, remember how he screamed and begged for his life (Gen.  42:21). After Pharaoh releases his cup bearer from prison, Joseph pleads with the cup bearer to fight for his freedom from a false imprisonment (Gen. 40:14-15). Joseph cries. He cries a lot, disturbingly so. He cries from fear, from loneliness, from unresolved pain and hurt. He cries. He cries because he has had a difficult life. Yes, Joseph was faithful but it was not easy. He did not show up in the dungeon announcing to the prisoners, "Guys! Attention! You look around and see a dungeon, prison bars, cold floors and no food, but I see a house of God, a church waiting to be built. Will you sing with me, 'Our God is mighty to save...'" He begged to get out of prison. Not until his 56th year of life does Joseph have the capacity and the hindsight to look back and recognize that God was with him all along (Gen. 50:19-21)

Joseph had moments, I would assume many, where he doubted God's presence and rightly so. There in lies the power of the Joseph story, because despite Joseph's awareness of God, the narrator is clear, "The Lord was with Joseph..." Perhaps while traveling through the desert as an Ismaelite slave, or facing false accusations of rape, or suffering alone in the dark cells of Egypt Joseph struggled to find evidence of God. But God WAS there. He was there working. He was there whether Joseph knew it or not.

God's presence was not limited by Joseph's awareness, and the same is true for you. God's presence is not limited by your awareness! You may be in a season of your life when God seems absent. You may look around at the chaos and dysfunction and find no evidence, no data, no proof of God. Your feelings are legit. Your emotions are warranted, but you are wrong. God is with you. Don't rely on your senses; rely on Joseph's testimony. God IS with you!

[If you would like to hear TCOC messages on the story of Joseph. Listen to our Messy God series HERE.]

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