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..: stories

..: Joseph the Technicolor Dreamer

One of the characters in the Bible I've always been able to relate to is a fella named Joseph. His story is in Genesis, and he gets plenty of pages devoted to him. And yet, Joseph does not perform miracles, write any part of the Bible, nor does he fight any wars. Instead his story is marked by courage, integrity and forgiveness of an extremely personal level. Basically, his own blood brothers betray him, leave him for dead and sell him into slavery. For thirteen years Joseph goes on a grand adventure that is by no means an easy one. Ultimately, he is reunited with his brothers (who by now regret what they did) and his father. Because of the horrible betrayal of his brothers, Joseph winds up saving not only his brothers and family from a severe world-wide famine, but also the great nation of Egypt and the surrounding lands as well. So what started off as very bad fortune for this kid ends up coming full circle and affecting everyone in the known world. Pretty amazing.

About a year and half ago, I was engaged to be married. We set our wedding date for May 22nd, 1999, which at the time was only one day after the release of Star Wars: Episode I (Believe me, it was a big deal at the time). I was already imagining the bachelor party - it would be a showing of The Phantom Menace for all my closest guy friends (and Anne). Anyway, all the specifics aside, this commitment towards marriage was the most serious decision I'd ever made. You realize just how serious the decision is when you plunk down several grand for that glorified rock on a band, and smile while doing it. As is often the case in life (mine particularly), things don't go as I planned. In the course of about two painful months, the engagement was cancelled, and our relationship dissolved. It's not appropriate to lay blame (for it truly takes two to tango), but let's just say that the broken engagement was a shock for me.

A few months go by and I feel good. Then bad, then good. Then bad, then worse. By the fifth month, I was content with life but at the same time mostly angry at God, and finding new creative ways to express that rage. I had crafted and shaped my bitterness, and wrote searing open letters to God here on the RageBomb, challenging Him to hear me, accusing Him of never checking my site, like how He never seemed to hear my prayers. It was the third closest time I've ever come to losing my mind. That was two months ago.

At the height of my desperation, I turn to God. Not in any sort of dramatic way, just quietly in my heart I resolve to go it God's way, not my own. To take my ambitions and to throw them in the river. So I do that. I tell God I give up, You do what You want. I'll start reading about your people, and about things of faith again. That's when I started reading Joseph's story. Not sure why he even came to mind. It may have been the radio preacher on the way to work, because he was teaching out of Joseph's story. Then my friend tells me that Swindoll has a new book out on Joseph, so I buy it. For weeks I devote myself to the life of Joseph and to feeling the things he felt and trying to imagine what I'd do in his shoes. That's how it was, in the morning the radio preacher would teach about Joseph, then I'd go home and read his story from Genesis and from Swindoll's Joseph "biography." I immersed myself in his world, trying to understand why Joseph chose courage over cowardice, integrity over compromise, and forgiveness over bitterness.

Somewhere in there, I found the root of my own bitterness: despite conferring with God, my engagement ended as a broken one, and had no discernible purpose other than to embarrass and humiliate me. What good can possibly come of this? I prayed about this new definition of my anger. There was no immediate answer from God, but it did come.

The waitress who delivered the words I needed to hear was a woman I'd never met before named Jean Darnell. The Pastor at the church I attended invited me to hear her speak during a weekend revival, and to allow her to pray for me. I attend the second day of that revival, and listened to what she has to say about the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Her insights are not terribly remarkable, and for the most part my heart is unmoved, and I am getting sleepy. And there is a spider on the cold metal chair in front of me. After several hours, Jean introduces a time for prayer, and she begins to lay hands on people in the room and pray for them. She must be saying the right things to them, because they sob and sob. There are about twenty people in place ahead of me, and I start to grow weary, thinking I should just call it quits and go home. So what I did instead was kind of cut in line ahead of these people. I'm glad I did.

When she comes to me, I sort of look at her, and almost dare her to say anything meaningful to me. She knows nothing about me, and I'm careful always in these sort of prayer things to never give anything away, and to not even let them overhear me talking to other people. She is a short woman, old with that sort of kindness and peace that comes from knowing God for a very very long time. I say nothing to her. She takes my hands, closes her eyes and begins to pray for me. What she said I will never forget, nor can I ever attribute to mere coincidence:

Joseph says "you intended this to harm me, but God intended it for good."

She could have stopped there, and my soul would have heard enough. But she went on to describe how bad things have happened to me, but that I am resilient, and that God will turn this around for good. Then she went on to tell me God could use me in the area of teaching... believers and non-believers alike. Her prayer was short, there were no tears. Emotionless, I thanked her, sat down on the couch for a few moments, and left to my car.

It was in the driver's seat that I was overcome with emotion. I remember holding my hands over my heart, and writing something on a scrap of paper as I dried my tears with a dirty rag. Strange how these words were only now being understood by something deeper inside me, something that was more me than who was sitting in the car.

I sit a while longer, sifting through her words and realize that if she had chosen any other verse from any other portion of the Bible, I would not have heard her. Jean chose Joseph's words. Rather, God chose Joseph's words to speak to me right where I was. It was a smart bomb from heaven, aimed with a divine precision that was downright scary.

I took it to heart. Started the car, and thanked God for what He was about to do in my life.
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