I made it through another 22 chapters of Genesis this week, almost reaching the very end of this book at last. (It feels like it has been a slow journey, but the stops along the way have been worth it.) This week Chapter 50 halted the smooth flow of my reading. It was something that Joseph said that set me to ruminating.
Reading: Genesis 50:19
Meditation: Joseph met his brothers who had earlier sold him into Egyptian captivity. They feared that he would avenge himself after Jacob's (Israel's) death, but Joseph, who had done well for himself in Egypt, was simply glad to see them. "Fear not," he said, "for am I in the place of God?" In other words, only God can avenge or judge or sentence. We are not in the position of God, and so we must simply forgive.
But forgiveness is not simple, not even when we think we have indeed forgiven. When I first came to faith, God made it clear that I was supposed to learn to forgive, starting with my extremely abusive mother. I reasoned if God had forgiven her, who was I not to do so. Making that first phone call after years of not talking to her was difficult but worth it for both of us. Having made it over this hurdle and into the path of being able to honor one's father and mother, I prided myself (pride goeth before a fall?) on my ability to forgive. God has a way of deflating pride, however, with one prick of the balloon. I clearly had NOT learned the forgiveness lesson well enough, and so God gave me another chance to learn it. (I seem to get lots of second, third, fourth chances -- I am somewhat of a slow learner, being by nature both rebellious and skeptical.)
In the second instance, the person I needed to forgive was the union president who had held up my being hired as a senior manager in the organization where I now work. I forgave him for that. It was pretty easy to do so. After all, I was hired. Without going into all the details here (I will post the full story later), the situation complexified considerably when the union president died unexpectedly. I, of all people, was asked to present a eulogy. Up until the day before the memorial service, I could not write a word. Every time I tried, nothing came to mind. I had convinced myself that I had forgiven this man, but on a long walk around the mission that I took the night before the memorial service, God led me to understand that while I had, on the surface, forgiven this man, I had not forgiven him deeply and completely because I felt no love for him. Understanding this broke the emotional barrier I had thrown up, and I felt much love for him, love I wish I could have expressed to him while he was alive. Out of that flowed a eulogy. Afterward, his family told a mutual acquaintance that the eulogy I gave began a healing process for them. (God is so marvelously capable of using us to help others at the same time that we are being taught -- what an incredible teacher!)
And that is far as I can go with you on this Monday morning. I must retire to prayer to ask God for greater willingness and readiness to forgive, to express my regret for not truly forgiving those people I should have by forgetting any transgressions against me and loving the transgressors sincerely, to give thanks for His willingness to love me in spite of my occasions of uncharitable thinking, and to offer praise to a God who cares enough about us to teach us.
After that, I will spend some time in contemplation with this wonderful God who never gives up on me, no matter how slow a learner I am.
I will now leave you to your prayer and contemplation.
If you pick this up as a weekly devotional activity, please share with me and others your own thoughts about the message of Genesis 50:19 or any other scripture that you choose for meditation. Feel free to export the image of the mission church; maybe some time in the near future my Internet-inept self will be able to figure out how to use the Mr. Linky buttons. In the interim, perhaps you are welcome to use the image and share the meme of Monday Morning Meditation for starting out the work week closer to God.
Have a good day and a blessed week, filled with love and forgiveness!