Say the word family in a room full of people with varying backgrounds, ethnicity, and social strata, and each person will automatically have a different definition. Family means different things to different people. Those on the East coast try to make sense of those on the West coast; the midwesterners try to figure out those on either side. Even those living in coastal California have trouble understanding those living east of California’s coastal range, and vice versa. Let’s not forget those in the Bible Belt of California, the San Joaquin Valley which runs nearly the entire length of the state. Oh, and how about Southern California and Northern California? It is true there is a difference, even though California is all one state. We all have struggled to comprehend the other guy’s perspective. I’m giving myself a massive headache, how about you?
Hopefully you see the challenge facing us when we endeavor to define what makes a family. For many, family is defined by blood, and most definitely if the blood is considered blue. However, we know their blood is just as red. They die just as easily, they have the same emotions, and can contract the same diseases. Blood, whether it is red or blue, means you are related to someone. But while you may share a gene pool, it doesn’t necessarily make you a family! It makes you related.
So where do we go to find what makes a family? Well, I tried Webster’s Dictionary, and this is what I discovered:
1. Group of people related to each other
2. A person’s children
3. Group of related people including those who lived in the past
Full Definition of Family:
1. a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head: household
2. a) a group of persons of common ancestry: clan;
b) a group of people regarded as deriving from a common stock: race
3. a) a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation/fellowship;
b) the staff of a high official: the President
These definitions barely seem to touch the proverbial iceberg! My conclusion of the meaning of family at this moment in present time is this: Family becomes what those involved in creating a family want it to become. A family can be defined as a group participating in meeting the needs of each person involved in their family unit.
Unfortunately, there are the predators: the sharks and/or wolves, those who prey on the vulnerable, using family as a way to cause pain. They seek the vulnerable, offering them the safety they believe is found in a family. Too late, many find instead a nightmare that is anything but safe. For far too many, this has become the meaning of family.
As Joseph is about to reveal his understanding of the word family, his brothers reveal their continued ignorance of what family means, and how it can offer healing.
“Since Joseph could no longer control his feelings in front of his servants he sent them out of the room. When he was alone with his brothers, he told them. “I am Joseph.” Then decried so loudly that the Egyptians heard him and told it in the kings palace.” Genesis 45:1,2 Contemporary English Version
Joseph sits on his throne watching every move, every motion made by his brothers. These brothers of Joseph are completely unaware the man on the throne understands every word they say. This Egyptian ruler, who is second only to Pharaoh in absolute authority, finds himself in turmoil as he watches and listens. Then Judah starts to speak, breaking all protocol for dealing with an Egyptian of such high status. A guard starts toward Judah, ready to protect the Master with deadly force if necessary. Joseph waves the guard back, every nerve taut, waiting for each word as it tumbles from Judah’s mouth.
I bet if you close your eyes, you can picture a room filled with sunlight. On the floor you see men bowed low with faces to the floor. You can feel the terror in the room; one man has been pleading for the lives of his brothers. His solution to the problem? He offers himself in place of the guilty. The innocent offers to take the place of the guilty!
In the future, the Innocent will place Himself in the rightful place of mankind, the guilty. Once again, man will mean it for evil, and God will make it for good! This is a lesson I need to learn daily, I need to be reminded of daily. I so want it to become the rhythm of my life, to let God make it for good. No matter what anyone else has as a motivation, God’s motivation is always to do what is for my best, and for the best of those he places in my sphere of influence even if it is only one who is impacted for the Kingdom of God! And let me tell you, for one who needs feedback, accepting God is accomplishing what He desires when there are no tangibles is a huge step!
He can no longer remain silent. Joseph orders everyone from the room, for moments confusion reigns supreme. The brothers are dazed, struggling to take in this new treachery. What can this mean except nothing that will be good for them! And then there it is, hanging in the air! Joseph’s cry of release was so loud, so full of 20 years of pent-up emotions that his servants were afraid and ran to inform Pharaoh something was dreadfully wrong. Maybe the Master was even dead, murdered by those foreign spies!
Meanwhile back at the office, there are 11 men who have just seen their lives pass before their eyes. They were frightened before. They thought they knew terror while bowed to the floor ignorant of the coming consequences! That was nothing compared to the sickening emotional knife piercing their hearts, minds, their very souls. Finally, it was to be over. Finally they could face their guilt and shame, and maybe the Egyptian would be merciful and the end would be swift.
Joseph looks into their shocked faces. He watches the emotions flying over each face ending in fear, an acknowledgement of what they believed the future held for them. All except Benjamin. As Joseph reads the fear and their almost sense of relief, he gathers his brothers to him:
“Joseph told them to come closer to him, and when they did, he said, ‘Yes I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. Don’t worry or blame yourselves for what you did. God is the One Who sent me ahead of you to save lives.’” Genesis 45:4,5 Contemporary English Version
Someday I hope to be a man after God’s own heart, a man who has the integrity of Joseph, the willingness to choose seeing “God’s fingerprints all over everything.” (Thanks to Oswald Chambers, with a little adjustment from yours truly!) Until that day, that moment, that nano-second, I will choose to remain in the Process of Grace, knowing there is no better place to live, to stumble, to fall, to trip, because there is always Someone and “someones” to help me up, brush me off, and keep walking with me! So to all my someones in my family, thank-you! And to my Someone, thank-you!
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