Ever been to an awkward family reunion? You know the kind. Aunt Bertha hates cousin Bernice because thirty years ago Bernice dated Bubba, even though she knew that Aunt Bertha's daughter Bonita was sweet on her? The family has not-so-neatly divided into sides on this pointless argument, and they all sit on opposite sides of the buffet table glaring at each other and gloating if they get the better piece of fried chicken?
Family reunions: Hatfield vs. McCoy edition. Always an adventure.
Joseph and his brothers had a pretty epic awkward family reunion... Picture it: Egypt, a whole bunch of years B.C. You are standing there being the big shot ruler, when suddenly your brothers walk in. The very same brothers that dumped you in a pit and left you for dead after selling you into slavery. Just a LITTLE more awkward that Bertha, Bonita, and Bubba... But we've already overcome the anger and bitterness. Now there is the hard part: reconciliation.
Joseph has had years to accept what has happened to him. He has come to understand that it is ultimately for his own good. He has also come to understand that perhaps his brothers have changed, because they are thinking more about the welfare of their father and their youngest brother than they are about their own welfare.
It still can't be completely easy to have this moment. To come together, rewinding the years and facing all that has been lost and gained in the process. Knowing that God has allowed all this for His purpose, and seeing those responsible in front of you. For the brothers, having come to understand the depth of the evil you perpetrated, and seeing the victim standing before you, forgiving. How hard is that? I can't imagine, but then I can.
Only God can reconcile that. Only He can bring that kind of mercy into a heart. Only He can help a guilty soul bear the shame. I am reminded of Corrie ten Boom, who forgave the guard from her concentration camp, and in that moment felt all of the hate and the forgiveness collide. In a world where "tolerance" has become defined as "agree with me NOW or else", we need that divine acceptance now more than ever.
When Joseph says, these words, I can only imagine their impact across the millennia: "
He first says, "Come closer." Oh, the power of those words. And then he says, "Don't be angry with yourselves." Only one has truly embraced divine forgiveness can ask a guilty person to forgive themselves...Joseph embraced the fact that God had truly kept his promise: his brothers had bowed down to him. Joseph also had to embrace that the suffering he had experienced was part of that promise.
This blog post may not make sense to anyone but me, but in my heart, it sings. God was "in the waiting" of every part of this story, and he turned an awkward family reunion into a restoration and reconciliation. That's what I pray for my world today.
Our praise team learned this song last weekend. It's my new favorite, because it has been so true of God's promises to me.
Bethel - "Take Courage"