When I was 20 I moved to a new city, and I had a terrible time making friends. I felt so lonely I could sit on the porch and howl. I felt trapped in the job I had. One day I made a drawing about my life. I was constructing a bomb shelter, laying up cement blocks to form a “safe” place in my cellar. But I was inside the cement box, increasingly trapped.
Have you felt trapped at times? The precautions we choose or feel obliged to practice in this COVID pandemic may stir those feelings. Finances. Relationships. Work. Wounds from Life’s traumas. Sometimes they tumble down on us like the sky falling and stir feelings like powerlessness.
One person in the Bible helps me see power and hope in these times, a fellow named Joseph. Joseph was the last born in a family of 12, and his life began with a special blessing. His mom and dad adored him.
But Joseph’s brothers became jealous, and one day they sold him to a slave trader. His life turned very grim, but Joseph came to see that he had choices. If he was to be a slave, he’d be the best slave he could be, and he earned his owner’s deep trust. The owner’s wife, however, thought Joseph was very attractive and tried to seduce him. Then Joseph made another choice, to say no. She screamed and accused him of rape, and he ended up in prison.
Joseph encountered many setbacks, and every time, with God’s help, he discovered choices he could make, including the option to learn to listen to God in dreams. Eventually God opened a way for Joseph to use that gift to help guide his country through a great famine.
Meanwhile Joseph’s own brothers came looking for food, not knowing the one to whom they came was their brother who they had sold into slavery. When they discovered this truth they were mortified. But Joseph wept with joy and said to them, “Fear not! What you intended for bad, God made good.” Joseph made more choices: to forgive, to thank God, and to savor reunion with his family.
As this new year begins, troubles will come to us. No surprise in that. And every time, the Bible tells us, life will offer us choices: options for investing in something good like honesty, forgiveness, generosity, and a lively connection to the whole of life. (I call that God.)
On a recent Sunday Mary Lee-Clark reported on a study asserting that each person has 35,000 choices each day. It’s hard to imagine having that many opportunities. But becoming aware of the choices we do have opens a door for us.
Joseph’s life offers us wisdom for these times. Let’s pay attention to the choices we have. Use them for something good. And build a deep connection to God, like listening to the dreams God sends us, to guide us. We cannot get in control of the big changes that surround us, but we can be agents of good in the many choice we make each day. May you discover the power the Life Force has for you this year!