For a Young Man
Scars are part of the human experience. Some are on the surface and some, the emotional kind, run deeper. Some are the result of accidents, and some are the result of a deep woundedness of the soul. Scars remind us that life isn't always fair and can be very painful - physically, spiritually, emotionally. Every time we see scars, we remember.
When I read about Joseph, I think of it as a scar story. It's about a young man's woundedness and recovery, but even more it's about hope.
The book of Genesis uses 13 chapters to tell Joseph's story. In a nutshell, he was a favorite son sold by his jealous brothers into slavery in Egypt. There he rose through the ranks due to diligent work, only to be falsely accused by his master's wife and thrown into prison.
Eventually, Joseph overcame that and was given a position of power. During a famine, his brothers came to Egypt seeking food. The tables were reversed, and Joseph now could exact revenge for the evil they'd done by wrecking his young life.
But Joseph looked back at the events of his life with a new vision. The scars of pain, rejection and separation were, for him, only part of the story. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph summed it up: "Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today." Professor David Seamands called this 50/20 vision - Genesis 50:20 vision. What the world and the human scheme planned as an evil, self-serving act, God used as a good, life-preserving act!
One persistent puzzle of the human experience is how we deal with the evil in our fallen world. We humans seem to live in constant jeopardy, vulnerable to a wide range of evil: sickness, crime, destruction of families, oppression. You know them all because you live them every day. It's legitimate to ask and even cry out, "Where is God in all this?"
Joseph's 50/20 vision tells us that despite all evidence to the contrary, God is at work. He's making things good despite the evil.
Does this mean every tragedy we experience has a silver lining? That all evil is really good, and that all our suffering is somehow being orchestrated by God?
Not at all. The world is full of senseless violence, horrifying hatred and a range of actions and attitudes that attempt to thwart God's will.
The Lord doesn't orchestrate all this evil, as the tension of life builds toward some grand and glorious ending. But both the Old and New Testaments teach us that God has the power to transform human evil into divine good.
Notice that the beginning of Genesis has a similar message as the end. In Genesis 1, God created the earth and us and calls everything "good."
By chapter 3, humans have rejected God's goodness. But despite all human efforts to the contrary, God's intention for good overcomes. He used Joseph's slavery to save a family, and he transformed Jesus' death to save the world. Even the apostle Paul, languishing in prison, wrote to the Romans, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."
We never should ask for a scar to be removed. Joseph didn't, Jesus didn't and neither should we. But God can transform our wound into something good, propelling us toward new and abundant life.
That's 50/20 vision.