“Joseph being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers. . . and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. . . ” Genesis 37:2b, NRSV
“Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?’” Genesis 50:15, NRSV
We can well imagine that when Joseph was young and the favored son, he was a spoiled brat. We can imagine him using his status not only to gain favors for himself, but to get his brothers in trouble. It’s no wonder they did not get along and the brothers want to get rid of Joseph.
But through his time as a slave, and as a prisoner, and then as a top administrator in Egypt, Joseph matures. When the time comes, he forgives his brothers. He saves them and their families not only by giving them food but a place to live in Egypt. We do not see Joseph holding a grudge or harboring vengeance, which could very well have been expected considering what was done to him. But Joseph has matured. He conducts himself with authority, wisdom, and compassion.
Hopefully as we make our way through life, we are all maturing. Hopefully we grow in a sense of our own authenticity and then function with more assuredness and authority that is consistent with who we are. Hopefully, as we see more of life, we gain some wisdom as time goes on and that helps us to grow and mature. And the more suffering we see in life, our own lives and that of others, hopefully, the more compassionate we become.
We should not expect to respond to things the same way when we are in our teens, our twenties, our thirties, our sixties, our eighties. Hopefully all along life’s journey, we are learning and growing and maturing in character and faith. Life experience is a wonderful teacher if we are eager students. And often it takes all of those lessons to help us through the challenges of later life.
And just as we should expect growth in ourselves, we should also expect growth from those around us including family and friends. We should not expect the same kind of response from a sister who is 60 that we got from that sister when she was 16. We should be giving her room to grow and mature and develop in her sense of self, in her wisdom, and in compassion. And we should want to affirm the growth and change that we see in others. That will be a sign of our growth and development.
The journey of life is a great teacher. May we learn well and continue to grow in integrity, wisdom, and compassion. May we continue to expand our capacity to forgive and to be forgiven. Amen.