Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m Joseph! Is my father really still alive?” His brothers couldn’t respond because they were terrified before him. (Genesis 45:3 CEB)
In two days I will be sitting in the dining room staring down a plate full of stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn casserole, turkey, and gravy with the smell of pie wafting in from the kitchen. Then I will plop down on the couch and watch some football or basketball or hockey, or maybe I should just say sports. There will be board games to play, cards to shuffle, and leftovers to microwave. The centerpiece though will be none of those things. The highlight of the day will be my family; getting to spend time with my family.
We spent the four weeks leading up to Thanksgiving looking at the Bible, specifically Genesis and a one week break in Isaiah, hoping to learn some family values through which we can live. The tag-line for the series, often in print and not mentioned in a sermon, was “and you thought your family had issues…” I came up with that because every person I come across seems to have stories of how messed up their family is. It’s as if we believe the lie that there is some “normal” family out there each one is supposed to live up to, some ideal.
But that’s hogwash. It’s always been hogwash. Norman Rockwell painted our eyes to see only a nostalgic dream of a family. Facebook presents families only at their best, never their worst. Life in a TV show is compressed to a half hour where all fights and resentment are glossed over after the commercial break. Life is messy and so are families.
Take Joseph and his family. Joseph was the beloved child in the family and didn’t hide it. Joseph was sold into slavery and his brothers lied about it. After a meteoric rise to power and a predicted famine, Joseph is able to exercise power over his brothers. Instead of embracing them, he knowingly falsely accused them of stealing and holds one of them hostage. That’s why when he reveals himself they are terrified!
And the story doesn’t end there. After their father dies, Joseph’s brothers are afraid he will punish them. They still live in fear of retribution over something which happened years ago. They are afraid Joseph secretly holds a grudge. The terror which they felt at Joseph’s self-revealing still rules their lives.
God is still able to use them. All of them. Joseph and his brothers are the 12 tribes of Israel. God is able to use these people even though they’ve made mistakes, even though they were horrible to each other, even though they come from a messed up family.
This Thanksgiving, take a moment and look at your surroundings. If it looks perfect, great! If you’re like me and it’s not a Norman Rockwell painting, give thanks because God can still use you.
Thanks be to God.