My name is Joseph and I could use a little guidance. My life has turned upside down and I am conflicted – to say the least – as to how to respond. As my father so often said, “Joseph, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who react in fear or those who respond in faith.” And since my dad always instructed me to substitute ‘trust’ for faith, I guess he meant I can either react in fear to my current situation, or respond by trusting my Heavenly Father.
Easier said than done.
Okay, here goes. I have worked hard all my life. I’m a carpenter; I work with my hands. Nothing fancy about me. I hear people describe me as “salt of the earth,” and “a righteous man.” Only I’m not feeling so righteous just now, because you see my bride to be, Mary, is apparently pregnant.
That’s right – pregnant. And no, I am not the father. How could this happen to me? I don’t deserve this. How could she do this to me? My brother Jude said he saw her throwing up behind the sheep pen the other morning, and so did that busybody Martha. Now I’m sure it’s all over the village.
My first thought is I need to get out there and protect myself. I mean it’s my reputation on the line, right? If I don’t defend myself, people will think I’m at fault. And please understand, we are not talking about just a bad rep – that could mean a stoning! So I’ve already got a speech figured out with great fanfare in order to protect myself. If I don’t protect myself, it might get out of hand.
Oh My. Do you hear me: If I, if I, if I? Where do I think God is in all this? Me, the righteous man.
I feel like I’m hearing God say, “Joseph, just let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’”
Okay, so here are my choices. I can either divorce her publicly or divorce her quietly. Don’t you agree divorce is my only option? I mean she did this to me. I don’t deserve this. And she needs to pay for hurting me.
Now, if I divorce her publicly I get my dowry back. That dowry is my life’s savings I gave her father when I asked for her hand in marriage. That’s a lot of money, at least to me. I would get it back, and my reputation is somewhat protected. Everyone will see I’m right and she’s wrong.
But if I divorce her quietly I lose my dowry, and certainly some of my reputation. But … I protect Mary’s. That would be the kind thing to do, wouldn’t it? She can go off somewhere, maybe with her favorite Aunt Elizabeth she always talks about, and raise the bastard child there.
That is what it will be, you know, a bastard child. Fatherless. Shamed.
So, I guess I have the choice of being right, or being kind.
I sense in my heart God is saying, “Joseph, when you have the choice of being right or kind, choose kind, please.”
Right or kind: what would you do?
I do love her. She’s so precious. And so pretty! On the outside, yes, but especially on the inside. She’s just the kind of mother I would want for my son. But now she has robbed me of this.
My son. I’ve always wanted to raise a son. I would teach him the Torah. Not so much just the Law, but more what God is saying to his heart. I would teach him about God’s message through Hosea:
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice ….”1 Uh oh. Mercy? Hmm. Mercy: not giving someone what they deserve. Does this apply here … to me? Surely God doesn’t expect me to show Mary mercy, after she’s hurt me so.
But how would I want someone in my position to handle this, if Mary were my daughter? Or, how would I counsel my own son, if he were me? After all, Mary is God’s daughter first, before she is my betrothed. Mercy. Forgiveness. Would I teach my son these, or would I teach him revenge, and bitterness … and looking out for #1?
And you know, even though people say I’m a righteous man, the truth is I’m not. Oh, I perform well in public, and to be fair, I do love the Lord, and I do seek to follow his commandments.
But righteous? Ha! If they only could see my heart – especially right now. And yet God has forgiven me over and over again. God has shown me mercy – not giving me what I deserve – over and over. Does he want me to do the same with his daughter, Mary?
But! But but but! What if? How will I? What would my future look like? My hard-earned money gone. My hard-earned reputation damaged.
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice ….”
React in fear or respond in faith? Can I trust my Heavenly Father?
What would you do?
Next week: Mary
Hosea 6:6 and Jesus at Matthew 9:13