Autumn leaves, and Joseph

I've been reading a book about Joseph by Terri L. Fivash (it's called "Joseph", which makes it easy to remember what it's about!), which I'm really enjoying. She has painstakingly researched the culture, traditions, etc. of the times that Joseph lived in, so she's able to re-create his experiences as he ended up in crazy Egypt. In other words, the sights of the market, the food he ate, the way he dressed, the political scene he would have had to learn about when he became second under Pharaoh... I had never realized that God's hand was in his being thrown into prison, for it was there that God was able to truly prepare him for his position as second under Pharaoh. Think about it. He met people from all kinds of classes as they passed through the system, he heard their complaints, learned what the status of the land was from the people who made up the land... like Moses, herding sheep, a seemingly futile experience was the stepping stone for his greatness. And seriously--if a slave/prisoner can rise to rule the country, then what can't God do with someone's life when they let him?

I realized that I really resonate with Joseph. He was violently betrayed by those who were supposed to be his family, who were supposed to nurture and encourage him... but they sold him, for their own selfish reasons. My soul has been torn to shreds over and over again by those who were supposed to be my role models, the ones to nurture and encourage me... and they stepped on me, squished me flat, for their own selfish reasons.

Yet it was in Egypt, the land of darkness, that Joseph found healing and a true perspective of his past. It was there he found out who God really is, and what it means that he's "there" when things are hopelessly dark. I, too, journey through darkness to reach the light. It seems so improbable, so impossible, so dichotomous that it is journeying through "Egypt", through the seemingly impenetrable darkness, that I would find healing. And sometimes I hate it. Can't I just travel through the magical land of sunshine and rainbows instead? But that's not where strength comes from. Anyone can be "strong" when things are going well. It's when your world crumbles around your ears that you find out what true strength is.

Something that struck me was God. To me, alot of times God is this vague, nebulous entity, not really a person, but more of an idea... and maybe that's because of the title "God". It's a noun, but not really a proper noun... like calling my sister "Girl" or Juneaux "Cat". But that's not his name. It's just his job title, really. Joseph knew God as "El Shaddai"--God the Provider, God the Mountain. Ruth knew him as "Yahweh"--He who is (truly present), or I will be to you all that I am. I mean, he was a real person to them, not just an invisible magic 8 ball floating in the sky somewhere.

When Joseph was in Egypt, they already had their own gods-- Ra, Isis, Osiris, Hathor, etc. So when Joseph spoke about El Shaddai, it was "my God". I see this as similar to a woman who refers to her husband as "my husband". It is a personal, individual thing. Anyway, that just really spoke to me. I'm tired of serving the gods of my imagination. I want to know El Shaddai, Yaweh-- the true God, who has desired to take a heartbroken young woman under his wing. I want to really know him as a person, not as slave to master, but as friend to friend. If he really is who he says he is, that is certainly possible.

And now, autumn leaves.

The landscape is a riot of fall colors, each brightly distinct, yet merging with the whole to glide symphoneously together in a beautiful, transient work of art. As I look at the leaves, I think, "Wow. They are so beautiful. What makes them so pretty? Because, really... they're beautiful because they are dying." I find that to be a fitting analogy for my life right now. (Except my life is not as beautiful as the fall leaves, I think.) I'm dying. Everything I've known is being stripped down, spun around, and turned inside out.

The leaves turn colors because, as the days get shorter, they take the cue that winter is coming. They stop photosynthesis, the process in which they convert sunlight into energy (glucose), and as the chlorophyll fades away, we see the colors that were in the leaves all along. They were just covered up by the bright green of the chlorophyll. In some cases, the colors are due to the waste products the leaves give off, or the glucose itself turning colors when it becomes trapped in the leaves.

It is fall in my heart. Photosynthesis has stopped, and leaves of habits long formed swirl slowly to the ground. Soon, winter will be here, and I will be stripped of all that is not necessary. Then? Then comes spring, where the buds of hope and future joy swell on my bare branches.

On second thought... maybe it's already spring.

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