Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Life Isn't Fair...So Make Lemonade

Genesis 39: Life's Not Fair...So Make Lemonade

It's the day before we move, and I'm a little out of sorts because things aren't quite finished and aren't quite done.  That makes me nervous. :) . My comfortable, well-appointed little home is in shambles and empty...and a little sad.  It's the way it works with moving. You have to tear up roots to plant new ones.  You have to dismantle one home to build another.

I guess it's appropriate that in the midst of my (self-induced) stress, I picked back up with my study of Genesis this morning, resuming it at chapter 39.  That's the place where Joseph gets sold into slavery and finds himself a servant in Potiphar's house.  So, what's a good guy in that kind of story to do?  Why, become the BEST SLAVE EVER!  Of course!  And rise to the point of being a trusted right hand man.  If the story ended there, it would be awesome and triumphant.  But it doesn't.

See, Joseph was about to be reminded again of one of those universal facts in this universe we inhabit.  Life. Is. Not. Fair.  You can be a good guy.  You can be faithful.  You can keep your nose clean and do what you're supposed to do.  But then... then you get slapped by reality.  In Joseph's case, he got slapped by Potiphar's lying, conniving wife.

I think I like Joseph's story because I would be so tempted to sulk.  I would be tempted to throw up my hands and weep because this is just NOT FAIR.  I didn't deserve slavery, but I was a good slave.  I DEFINITELY don't deserve a wrongful felony conviction when I didn't do ANYTHING except NOT sin.  I would probably be having a long and not exactly pious conversation with the Lord about all that.  And maybe Joseph did too...but I doubt it.  His story just paints him as going into the prison and making the best of a really bad situation.  What do you do when you're a good guy in jail for a crime you didn't do?  You become the BEST PRISONER EVER!  Of course.

Confession time:  I'm tempted to sulk even right now.  And life is pretty good.  When a little bump in the road hits, I feel the "It's Not Fair" tide rising in me, and I want to scream at the sky.  And people, it's a LITTLE bump.  But I don't like bumps.  I plan things because I like them to go smoothly.  I don't like surprises.  I like predictable.  But God doesn't work that way always.

The reminder for me today is that I must trust God in all things.  Little and big.  I must remember that what I see as a stumbling block, He doesn't always see that way.  I need to remember that it's not all about me.  At all.  And in the middle of my sad empty house, I think I may make lemonade...or I may just go buy some, since everything in my kitchen is packed up.  :D

Genesis 39: 21-23
21 But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. 22 Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. 23 The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Sad End of a King

School is done (shout hallelujah!) and my mornings no longer feel like race to the finish line, which is really just a starting line.  The joy in that, of course, is time for coffee, reading, and thinking before I have to kick into high gear.

This morning, I was finishing out the book of I Samuel after an incredibly long break from doing any serious reading.  No real excuses.  Just life as a parent, teacher, and newlywed in the middle of a move.  Things have been hectic...

But, back to the last chapter of I Samuel.  The entire chapter is pretty dark, depressing, and blindingly sad.  Saul, who was once a great and might king - also tall, dark, and handsome, according to the scriptures - ends his life as a sniveling coward on the field of a massively failed battle. The usual lesson here is more about David than Saul; after all, most of us just look at the two for contrast.  Lately, though, I've felt a lot of sadness about lost potential, and I guess that's why I see Saul's story as one that is so very tragic.

I see a young man, uncomfortable in his own skin, hiding behind bags so that he doesn't get called out.  I see a new king desperately insecure, and therefore trying to build himself up by bullying others and pressuring them under his authority.  I see a man drivenn by jealousy and arrogance to homicidal craziness.  It makes me sad.  Mostly because I see a whole lot of Sauls surrounding me in the world.

You don't have to look past Facebook to see it.  The trending stories on the right hand side of your screen will weekly have a few old rock stars or movie stars who have ended their lives in a blaze of drugs, alcohol, and wasted potential.  There will be tributes to them, of course, lauding early achievements as everyone tries to forget the way it ended.  The pictures will focus on a young man or woman, in their prime, before their individual demons did their damage.  That fame will inspire another generation to follow down the wrong path, convinced that they are different and the bad stuff just won't happen to them.

You can see it in passive-aggressive posts that have no place on social media.  Meanness and armchair judgment blasted from the safety of your phone, tablet, or computer is so much easier than compassion.  So that's what most do.  The spirit of Saul - the spirit of the insecure bully - can be seen in its shining glory, on display for all to see.

But we cannot forget that Saul isn't a hero.  He is not remembered for any accomplishments, only for the meaner parts of his spirit and personality.  He is defined by his hatred of those loyal to him, because he never could believe in himself.   By the fact that his own son could see just what he was, and therefore he hated him too.

Saul's story breaks my heart,  because it is a story of lost potential and failure to understand that humility is the key to success.  In a world that is defined by self promotion, it is essential that we remember that Jesus called us to make ourselves servants.  Servants wouldn't do promotional videos about how awesome they are.  Sauls would.

I wish I could have talked to that young Saul hiding behind all the baggage.  I wish I could have told him that he didn't have to compete with anyone because God had anointed him to be king.  I wish that I could tell him that he didn't have to maintain his own position by scheming and dominance.  He just needed to trust in God.  He just needed to obey.

I wish his story had a different end, and I wish the same for every trending story on the side of my Facebook feed.

I Samuel 31
I 4Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.”
But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5When his armor bearer realized that Saul was dead, he fell on his own sword and died beside the king. 6So Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and his troops all died together that same day.