Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wretch Like Me

Amazing grace! How sweet the soundThat saved a wretch like me!I once was lost, but now am found;Was blind, but now I see.

John Newton, “Amazing Grace” 
One of my favorite Bible stories is the multiple chapter epic that is the life of Joseph. In the latter part of the book of Genesis, the writer lays out a story with sibling rivalries, dysfunctional parenting, murderous intent, false forensic evidence and human trafficking. Joseph’s life covers multiple kingdoms as well as success at business, a false rape accusation, unwarranted imprisonment, the interpretation of dreams, a surprise meeting with the Pharaoh and promotion to one of the highest offices in Egypt. His family re-enters the story due to famine and we see the temptation for revenge, the planting of evidence, and the tearful reunion when Joseph reveals himself. Honestly, I’m surprised that Netflix isn’t developing a mini-series… it’s got all the right elements.
Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...Grandson: Doesn't sound too bad. I'll try and stay awake.Grandpa: Oh, well, thank you very much, very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.

The Princess Bride (film)
Joseph makes a pretty amazing hero. You’ve got to admit, anyone who can survive being sold to slave traders and getting thrown in prison unjustly and still not bring down the mighty wrath of the Egyptian kingdom on the brothers who traded him away and faked his death has got “white hat” written all over him.

Here’s the problem, though - that’s not the whole story. The first time we see Joseph, he’s ratting out his brothers to his dad. Just a couple of lines later Dad is giving him the fabled “coat of many colors”, otherwise known as the “I love you more than any of my other children” coat.

One wonders if young Joseph is wearing the coat when he decides to tell his brothers about his dreams - dreams where he is the center of attention and they bow down to him. (Important safety tip: just because you have a dream doesn’t mean you have to share the contents with everyone around you.) This is one tone-deaf privileged teenager.

And the fateful trip where Joseph was thrown down a well while his brothers decided whether to murder him or to sell him off for beer money is because he was doing his father’s bidding and once again setting up to “bring a report” on his siblings.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,Prone to leave the God I love

“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” 
Joseph is, in the words of the famous hymn, a wretch like me.

I don’t like the word “wretch” - I’d prefer to be “conflicted with various moral and ethical problems” or “working through dysfunctional family issues” or “tragically misunderstood.” But the painful reality is that I’m responsible for my own choices… and those choices tend towards selfishness, towards pridefulness, towards assuming that the world revolves around me.

I have a lot more in common with Yertle the Turtle and the star-bellied Sneetches than I do with Horton or the Lorax. Though I’m loath to admit it, an honest read of my heart would have the Sorting Hat put me in Slytherin. I’m more like Draco than I am Harry.
It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.  
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 
With all that said, it’s encouraging to see that Joseph struggles with the same things that I do. His sinfulness and his subsequent faithfulness remind me that my story isn’t determined by my worst choices… instead, it’s profoundly shaped by the most gracious choice ever made - Christ’s death and resurrection. His payment for sin - my sin - makes it possible for me to be draw close to God, to make wise choices, to be a hero in the epic story of the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13).
But the practical side
Said the question was still
When you grow up what will you be?
I wanna be a hero
Steve Taylor, “Hero”