December 18, 2012

Joseph: Not the Life He Had Planned

I am reading John Blase's Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Wonder of Christmas and was especially struck by his portrayal of Joseph and how his submission to God's will affects us even today. I am thankful for his faithfulness and encouraged to believe God even when He changes the dreams I had for myself to accomplish a greater Kingdom purpose. Here is how Blase describes Joseph:
Do you know who most reminds me of me these days? Old Job, the faithful. Old Job, the sufferer. He had lived according to the will of the Mighty One, yet all was taken away. I, too, had lived by the commandments. No one had forced me; it was my decision. Yet all seemed taken away.

Before that dream I'd had other dreams. Dreams without angels in them. Visions of Mary and children. The children would grow strong and devout, and Mary and I would ease into a cranky elegance. We would live a well-ordered life. Then all those dreams were snatched away.

In the days just after Mary confirmed what I'd been told, I thought of the lines from Job's drama: "Curse God and die." If you do not believe there were moments when that invitation was tempting, then you make me out to be something I am not. I am not an angel or one of the lesser gods. I am a man. This was not the life I planned.

But curse the Mighty One? I could not. My ordered life? A memory. The control I'd long worked to establish? Gone. In truth it may never have been there, but I thought it was, lived like it was. My reputation among family and friends? Stained. What kind of story was this I had fallen into?

But to curse the Mighty One? I would not, for I'd had that dream. A carpenter works with what he can see and feel; a corner angle and the heft of wood. But here I was chasing a dream. The afternoon of my life looked nothing like the morning.

So on to Bethlehem it was. We had know the census was coming, but the timing was horrible. While we were there, Mary went into labor. It was time. In that moment my dreams of always being able to provide for my wife were snatched as well. I could not even find a decent place for her to deliver the child. Voices of shame raged against me almost daily: "You are just a carpenter, Joseph. Who are you to accompany the only begotten of God? He is not even your son. Why are you walking away from all you've built just because of a dream?"

You must know I tried. But there were things I could not make happen. I can make about anything. But wood is not the medium of the Mighty One.

"No room."

"We have no room."

"What, are you blind? Do you not see all the people?"

"Look, son. I see your need. There is room in my stable. It's all I can offer you. Take it. You should have made better plans."

I am dismayed by the way that night is remembered. There are those who tell the story as if it were a production, a staged affair. That is blasphemous. It was no production. It was a birth. I was scared. She was scared. He was Mary's first. I had witnessed cattle being born, but never a child. There were no bright lights. The animals did not move on cue. No one sang.

He came as all men come, bathed in the lifeblood of His mother. He conception was divine. His birth was of the earth.

It was my responsibility, one of the few things I could do. I raised the knife and freed Him of her. I, Joseph the carpenter, released the Son of the Mighty One into this world. My knife was dull; it took two tries. The blood from the cord wet my forearms. So much blood. So much blood.

Mary wrapped Him as if she'd wrapped newborns before. But she was exhausted.

"Joseph, I must rest. Here, take Him."

The Scriptures say that God blessed Job's later life more than his earlier life. He ended up with sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, sons and daughters, and grandchildren.

I could only hope my story would conclude like that of the old sufferer. The dream I chased had my back against a stable wall, my fiancee asleep in blood-red hay, skittish sheep and oxen as onlookers, and my hands filled with a Son not my own.

Mighty One, this is not the life I planned. I had heard Your ways were not our ways, but I really had no idea. The road I had hoped to be straight has been a crooked little path. The hopes and dreams of my youth have faded. But, there is something now that remains, something truer about me. And about You. This is not the life I planned. Thank you for my life.