“There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous.” Genesis 41:29-31, NRSV
How do we deal with looming bad news? Pharaoh has two dreams which Joseph interprets as a warning about an upcoming famine. Pharaoh could dismiss this interpretation. He could deny what he has been told about the future. After all, as they say, “Denial is a river in Egypt.” Pharaoh could easily dismiss Joseph’s abilities and accuracy because he doesn’t like the content. This happens all the time, too.
When there is doom ahead, we can deny it. We can ignore it. We can put our head in the sand. We can refute it. I suspect this is what lots of smokers do every time they light up. This applies in our personal lives but with social and political trends as well. People going along, ignoring the calamity ahead. Ignore the aging infrastructure of a city, and you get a water crisis like Flint, Michigan. Another glaring example is climate change and sea level rise. Many outright deny the calamity ahead. Others acknowledge the problem, but postpone taking the drastic steps needed to address it.
Ignoring unpalatable events ahead doesn’t make them go away.
Pharaoh listens to Joseph’s interpretation, and then follows Joseph’s recommendations to prepare for the famine. In this way, disaster is mitigated for Egypt.
Lent might be a time to think about the bad news ahead that we have been ignoring. It may be a time to come to terms with a looming difficult situation that needs our attention, but that we have been pushing aside. It may be a time to come out of our denial and take matters in hand. Jesus had 40 days in the wilderness to give things a good, hard look. Lent is a time to come clean and be honest.
We are masters of deception. We deceive ourselves. And we deceive others. We ignore or discount the things we don’t want to see, especially in ourselves. It is so much easier to see the sliver in someone else’s eye than the log in our own. This Lenten season, may we turn aside from our deception and denial, knowing that Love awaits us. Amen.