Don’t Forget, But Do Forgive

FRIDAY GLEANINGS BY CARMEN

“Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” (Genesis 41:51 NLT)

IMG_0309Recently our book club discussed Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock.  In this book, the main character is trying to salvage a relationship with an abusive father and says: “Good memories are like flowers and bad memories are like weeds.”  If this is true, then it is not hard to understand why Joseph gave his firstborn son a name that means “to forget.”  Joseph was weeding his garden.  After being sold by his brothers and sold into slavery He was casting out the weeds of betrayal, hurt and disappointment in his past and holding on to his new life, which was unfolding like a well-watered flower in Pharaoh’s court.

What he didn’t realize, however, is that divorce is never final.  Whether we divorce a spouse, a parent or an entire family, relational ties are hard to sever. No matter how diligently we work to eradicate our bad experiences and memories, they tend to return and mingle with the newly planted seedlings of our current circumstances.

In a garden, some weeds can spoil a fruitful harvest, but others hold top-soil together, pull up water, provide food, and help control insects.  In life, God gives us flowers as well as weeds; roses as well as thorns.  He does so to help grow our character, our faith, our hope, and our resolve.  Joseph suffered through the rejection and cruelty of his brothers, the humiliation of slavery, and the isolation of prison, but God was with him. That God did not forget Joseph and that Joseph did not forget the God of the family he was trying to forget, accounts for his success in a foreign culture.

Eventually, Joseph has to face his past. When his brothers come to Egypt in search of grain during a famine, Joseph is forced to control his natural inclination to seek retribution and chooses instead, to follow his supernatural inclination toward mercy and forgiveness. (Genesis 42:3 NIV) In order for mercy to triumph, however, Joseph has to be willing to own his past as well as his present.  He must get to know these brothers that are like strangers to him. (Genesis 42-44 NIV) Will they prove to be more than bad memories and haunting nightmares?

To be part of this family again, he must put his brothers to a test, a test of their love for father Jacob, half-brother Benjamin, and their brother Simeon.  By detaining them in Egypt without revealing his identity, Joseph is able to witness their fear, turmoil, guilt and remorse over their past sin against him.  He sees their reluctance to bring more grief to Jacob, who is still inconsolable after Joseph’s supposed death.  Ultimately, his threat to put Benjamin to death elicits Judah’s impassioned defense of his brother and his offer to die in his stead. Joseph, who has resolved to forget his family, is faced with a life-changing choice: to love only his new family or to forgive and accept his place in the family of his forefathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Genesis 45 NIV)

Our all-knowing God, of course, knew the outcome.  God used the challenges in Joseph’s life to train him to be the man He would use to save Egypt from famine, and the Nation, Israel, from extinction.  God had a plan and a promise to keep and Joseph was a key player in the fulfillment of that promise.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You were with Joseph and you are with each of us today.  Teach us to be content in every circumstance and to thank you for the flowers, the weeds and the thorns in our lives.  Heal our relationships through love and forgiveness and use our past, present and future for your greater glory.

Amen

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