By Kolleen Lucariello
"I had a dream last night!" Our grandson, Mason announced to us one morning during our recent visit. As he described his dream, I told him it felt more like a nightmare than a dream. Dreams should fit the definition given by Merriam-Webster as, "something notable for its beauty, excellence, or enjoyable quality." His dream sounded rather traumatic. Thank goodness it was only a dream!
Another definition for dream is, "an experience of waking life having the characteristics of a dream." I might verbalize this dreamy state like this, "pinch me, please; I must be dreaming." This is the expression we use when we can't believe this grand and glorious thing is happening. On the flip side, it could also be uttered when the experiences of life have become so unbelievably difficult we'd like a pinch to wake us and pull us out of it.
Dreams might also begin in the "pinch me; this is too good to be true" arena, but, as we learn from the story of Joseph and his life experiences, some dreams take a downward turn and become "please pinch me; this cannot possibly be true."
Joseph had a "pinch me this is too good to be true" dream that pushed his already jealous brothers to the breaking point. They were more of the mindset, "pinch me if this ever comes true." Together, hearts full of envy can devise such wickedness, can't they? The brothers took action that turned Joseph's dreamy life into a stormy one.
We often think of Joseph as a "tattletale" for the "bad report" he gave his father about his brothers which led to their hatred of him. A footnote from the NET Bible offers another perspective: "the entire Joseph story has some of the characteristics of wisdom literature. Joseph is presented in a good light—not because he was perfect, but because the narrative is showing how wisdom rules. In light of that, this section portrays Joseph as faithful to his father in little things, even though unpopular—and so he will eventually be given authority over greater things." Eventually. However, before he would experience the "pinch me, this is too good to be true," he would go through storms of "pinch me, this cannot be happening."
Several of the brothers wanted to kill him, but eventually they settled for throwing him into a well and then eventually sold him for twenty pieces of silver to Midianite merchants (Genesis 37). They watched him as he was led away bound, distraught, and begging for mercy. They shut their ears to his cries (Genesis 42:21). Their act of evil would eventually lead to many injustices for Joseph—one storm after another.
There's just something about someone who can endure storm after storm and never allow the storm to get in them. Joseph was that someone. He always maintained his integrity and faith that God was able to bring good out of whatever storm he was in. He was faithful, even when those around him were faithless in him. And, when God used him wherever he was, he always gave credit to God. Regardless of the storm.
Such a challenge for me when I think about what I allow to get in me when the dreams aren't so dreamy! My visions of marriage, raising children and growing older held laughter, harmony and hopeful expectation as we sailed on calm waters through the years together. Yet, this hasn't always been the reality. Eventually, I grow weary. Eventually, I weep and wail.
So, how do we respond when our dreams and the life we imagined isn't always dreamy? When the perfect spouse, ideal children and the flawless home become hurricane force winds that create fierce, angry waves pushing and pulling at emotions that eventually crash us into jagged rocks. Rarely do we dream of the future storms that will hold turmoil and troubles, sickness and sorrow, or conflicts and contention.
How does the example of Joseph reveal God's ability to take us through the storms with our heart for him, and others intact? These were my takeaways from his story.
Joseph never blamed God. He believed the wicked intentions of his brothers became the Divine intervention of his God.
He refused bitterness' invitation to resent where he was and instead always gave his best. He was a person of integrity, who served others from a heart that desired to please God.
He rejected his right to hold a grudge against his perpetrators. The opportunity for revenge stood before him and the power for justice was within his right, but he offered mercy.
Eventually, he stood face-to-face with his brothers and tested their hearts to see if they'd changed, and when he saw they had, he revealed his true identity and declared the good reasons God allowed him to endure the storms, while acknowledging the reasons behind their actions.
How was he able to find good from the bad? I believe it's because he refused to give the storm entry into his heart. It would seem he did something that I find difficult to do—rather than dwell on the storm and find reasons to blame, he faithfully and intentionally kept his focus on the Giver of the One who could bring good dreams from the not so dreamy ones. It might take awhile, but Joseph proves to us that anchored in Christ, we can #arise and eventually see the good from the other side of the storm.