Then the man who is governor of the land told us, “This is how I will find out if you are honest men. Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take grain for your starving families and go on home. But you must bring your youngest brother back to me. Then I will know you are honest men and not spies. Then I will give you back your brother, and you may trade freely in the land.” (Genesis 42:33-34)
Relate: More than a decade back, I escaped from what was unquestionably the worst working situation in my life. Technically, I tendered my resignation but my boss was just as happy to see me go as I was to leave. I am fairly positive that if I had tried to hold out another week I would have been fired instead of quitting. Most of the conflict was just a clash of personalities. He was not the best of employers and anytime I was talking about the situation with my close friends, there was plenty of legitimate things to complain about. On the flip side, I was definitely not the best of employees. I was young, arrogant, and immature. Our personalities and styles clashed and I pretty much checked out from any concept of “team” or “compromise” pretty early. That said, I was burned, hurt, and more than a little bit bitter when I left that place.
In my heart and in my mind and with a mentor I worked through my issues. I owned up to the fault I shared in the situation. I forgave my former employer for the way I was mistreated. It was a process that took a few years but I honestly felt like I had forgiven him. Then I bumped into him at a conference in Buffalo NY. We exchanged pleasantries (Hi, nice weather, isn’t it? Well, see you around) and went our separate ways… quickly. About a year later our paths crossed again in Poughkeepsie, NY. Then shortly after that, we did so a third time in Brooklyn. This time we did lunch and had a real talk. Although we aren’t best buds or anything close now, we can get along fine and even occasionally interact through social media. I had forgiven him and he me a long while back, but we both needed to see that a change had happened. We needed to “test the waters” a bit before moving forward.
React: It is through the lens of that situation, and similar ones I have heard from friends, that I see Joseph in how he interacts with his brothers. The way he treats them can only be considered harsh. He locks one brother up for close to a year. He berates, threatens, and falsely accuses the others. Finally, he threatens the youngest brother with death. They had all admitted that the youngest was the favorite just as Joseph once had been and he wanted to see how the others will react. We rightly look to Joseph as one of the heroes of the faith but, man, I wouldn’t suggest him as a model for good family interactions.
Joseph is human. Although he could easily say, “What you meant for evil God planned for good” he still needed to process his healing. He needed time and multiple interactions confronting that “demon” before he could fully move forward. He needed to see that they had changed before allowing them back into his life.
I think sometimes we beat ourselves up unnecessarily. We have forgiven a person or a situation but there still occasionally rises emotions or memories we thought we had left at the cross. We don’t realize that full forgiveness doesn’t always immediately mean complete healing. Let me say that again: full forgiveness doesn’t always mean immediate complete healing. Let’s not feel an unnecessary guilt when the process of getting over something takes a lot longer than moving past it did.
I want to be healed. I want to be whole. Although I can forgive others as You have forgiven me, sometimes there are still memories and scars that persist. Give me the courage to go through the often long and painful process of healing so that they will not be a negative influence on me. Give me the wisdom to do whatever is necessary to see that no bitter root burrows into my soul. Help me to heal so that I can be an agent of healing for others.