“Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife. Thus Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Genesis 41:45-46a, NRSV
What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question we often ask kids. And the answers are fun. Ask a high school or college student and it can be more anxiety producing because they are worrying about what to do with themselves when they imminently enter the big wide world.
What did you think you wanted to be when you grew up? What kind of life did you expect to lead? Are you on the path you thought you would be on? Did things turn out pretty much as you expected? Or have things unfolded differently? Is your life going in an unexpected direction?
Joseph was from a large family of shepherds with huge flocks living a semi nomadic life in the land of Canaan. He could never have imagined living in Egypt letting alone being in charge of the farming and crops for an entire country, being the second in command after Pharaoh, and being married to an Egyptian woman.
Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we expect them to. This may happen because we need to be doing things with our lives that we had not anticipated. New circumstances and directions appear and we know it is what we are supposed to do. Sometimes things don’t turn out as we expect because we make a mess of things. We make poor choices and get into trouble and find ourselves derailed from what we intended. Sometimes we may know what we are being called to but we simply say no or ignore what we know. Through the course of our lives, we may find ourselves in each of these situations, looking back.
Joseph did the best he could under the circumstances. He shows an adaptability, an acceptance of where his life takes him. And whatever state he is in, he finds God, trusts God, and lets his light shine so that others see God in him.
There are some who believe that Jesus knew what was in store for him from the beginning. They beleive that he knew he would face opposition, be betrayed, face an unfair trial, and suffer a humiliating, excruciating death through crucifixion. Some believe Jesus knew his whole life’s path from his birth, or certainly from his baptism on. For me, it makes Jesus stronger and more impressive in his moral imagination to think that he was choosing over and over and over again the way of love, healing, and reconciliation without specifically knowing what the outcome would be. For me, it makes Jesus more of a model I am challenged to follow to think that he did not know what the future would hold. He was like us, trying to discern God’s will and live by it. And he did it and got it right over and over again. He trusted God and did not falter. For me, that way of looking at Jesus is more inspiring and makes a deeper impression.
Lent is a time to think about how we may be resisting something or ignoring something. A tug, a pull in our lives. Maybe it’s a time to let go of something and free ourselves to take a new path. To trust and be surprised.
Each day dawns with new possibilities. We may think we know what’s ahead. But changes come. Circumstances present themselves that were unanticipated. What does not change is Divine Love working in the world and in our lives for the good of all. May we release our imaginary control and trust. Amen.