Oh they did; they sure did, first throwing him into a disused well, then uncaringly selling him on for thirty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, not caring what became of him.
And what came out of his experience of betrayal, slavery, false accusation, and imprisonment was elevation—promotion—influence–the ability to save many lives.
* * *
I used to feel stressed and a bit hopeless if I had enemies, if I thought there were people with inveterate animosity, jealousy, competitiveness, or malice towards me, who would block me, who might slander me. The thought of such people still does not make my heart sing!
But they are a fact of life. “Some are jealous of your face. Some are jealous of your lace. And some will be jealous of your grace,” as RT Kendall writes in The Anointing.
However, Shakespeare’s young Henry V puts it well, “We are in God’s hands, brothers, not in theirs.”
I sigh if I realize someone is reflexively blocking me or my ideas, putting in a bad word for me, but I am not afraid.
I do not fear them.
Because there are always two stories going on in our lives: the plot we see, and the story God is still writing. There is the story people think they are forcing onto your life–in which you may miss the chance to lead, speak, get the prize, the invitation, because someone feels threatened by you, is jealous of you, or just plain dislikes you.
Often you are unaware of these machinations, and that’s best. When you do know, you wring your hands with a sense of loss.
But all is not lost.
You were not meant to lead at that time. You were meant to quietly follow the One. You were not meant to speak at that time. You were meant to listen.
Sure, it will take you longer to achieve your heart’s desire. The Spirit is taking you on the scenic route. You are in the desert, where all voices are silent, but the voice of God; where is no trophy but his companionship; no wine but his spirit; where your progress is not measurable, and, anyway, there’s no one to praise it.
Why, even your prayers aren’t working. Every avenue of showing off is blocked.
* * *
You say: “See here, God, I have wasted my life. Look at me, mid-life and achievement-poor. Remember, God, those years I was promising; remember that award for a writer of unusual promise? Why I was in my twenties then. The snazzy university, the snazzy prizes, the early publications, the blushing peach down of promise, remember?
Well, I’ve failed, and you’ve failed me; we’ve failed together, you and I.
Yeah, you really haven’t managed my life too well, Lord, and neither have I. Let’s just go eat some worms.
My twenties are over, my thirties, my… Let’s just say “my hasting days fly on with full career, but my summer little bud or blossom showeth.”
How can you make up to me, God for the years when I wanted to build much, but instead built little?
You have behaved rather badly towards me, my God, my friend. You have let me down. You are my friend, and so I forgive you, but I am sad about this. I am.
But if I love anyone, I love you. So yes, I will follow you because, you’ve sure ruined my appetite for following other paths of glory.
I believe you can restore the years the locusts have eaten. The prophet Joel said so, and Christians have attested to it. But I don’t see how. Jesus, let’s be honest here, I sometimes feel as if nothing can compensate me for those wasted years, the years in Joseph’s dungeon.
I really do.
Though they were what you gave me, and I accept them because I love and trust you. I accept them from your hands in trust as I accept the full years of your goodness.
* * *
And you, Lord, reply:
“Child, child, friend, beloved, Anita, what you wanted was a lesser good, and so I withheld it.
You saw the success of your writer friends—their whirl of book readings, teaching gigs, speaking gigs, lectures, prizes, prolific writing, book contracts, money, fame, fascinating friends, travel. All the trappings of a career. And you wanted it too.
And I knew you wanted it.
But I also knew you better than you knew yourself. Don’t make that face. I truly do.
You were not ready for the busyness of travel, deadlines, speaking, teaching, crises, midnight oil.
Fame and glory–what made you think it would make you happy? I knew it would not. It would not. Rushing to planes, trains and automobiles has never made you happy. Rush has never makes you happy, or busyness, or deadlines. You love quiet unscheduled days at home, or in your garden.
But I promise you this: You will write the books you want to write. You will not die before your pen has gleaned your teeming brain.
All the things you deeply love and want to explore and preserve in words, I will ensure you explore and preserve them,
All the things I kept from you, I kept not for your harm, but that you might find it in my arms.
You are sad that success came later than you wanted it, but trust me.
The bright lights of the big cities would have obscured me.
The noise would have silenced my whisper.
A hammer had to be taken to all those idols.
There had to be a gotterdamerung, a ragnarok. You wanted to be Ms. Famous Writer, to dazzle the world with your creativity. You wanted fame, glory, money, success, as you saw your friends get it.
You had but one shot at investing in your children. I slowed down your career so you could teach them all you had to teach them. And could your marriage have withstood the rush in peace, not pieces? Did you want to be Ms. Divorced Famous Writer? You did not.
You have reached mid life with a full heart and full spirit, into which I have poured and poured and poured myself and my words. And now it is time to write.
* * *
“Oh God, could you not have poured both? Both yourself and the other things I wanted?”
“But then there would not have been room for me. I had to pry your fingers from other things, so they would clasp me. Had to silence other sounds, so you could hear me.
I gave you not what you thought you wanted, but what you love, quiet and peace and silence. And in the quietness of your country garden, I shaped you, I formed you, I made you into a woman of integrity, a woman aligned with me, a woman I can trust.
You sometimes feel you’ve wasted your life.
But child, you’ve given your life to me. It’s now my story, not yours. I am the author, not you.
Accept the plot twist I chose. Forgive me, as I forgive you. It was not time before. It’s time now. It’s time.
* * *
Lord, I accept the plot you chose. I accept my years in the wilderness. I accept your judgement that they were necessary. I forgive you.
And I will go forward in joy, in alignment with you, your joy filling my heart.
* * *
Open your hands wide, and I will fill them. Your heart has been reformed in the silent years.
Now I know, and you know, that while your hands are full of my blessings, your eyes will be on me and your heart will be full of me.
* * *
Have you experienced a period of great silence? Have you experienced God more deeply as a result?
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