Friday, August 17, 2007

A Promise or a Dream?

I used to identify with Abraham more than just about any other Bible character, because he had to wait such a long time for the fulfillment of God's promise. If you've been reading this blog even for a short while, you know that waiting on God--waiting for the realization of my dreams--is a struggle for me.

Did anything jump out at you from that first paragraph? Abraham was waiting on a promise. I'm just waiting on a dream. When that realization struck me a few years ago, it unsettled me for awhile. But then I started reading (a few chapters further on in Genesis) about Joseph. As far as I can tell, God didn't speak as directly to Joseph about His plans for him. Joseph just had dreams. He dreamed on two different occasions that his brothers and his parents would one day bow down to him. He seemed pretty confident these dreams were going to come true. And shortly after--well, you probably know the story. Instead of bowing down to him, his brothers sold him into slavery.

Years passed. Things improved for Joseph, then fell apart again when he was unjustly imprisoned. While there, he helped a fellow inmate, who promised to put in a good word for Joseph when he was released. The fellow eventually did help him--two years later. Joseph's family did end up bowing down to him, about twenty years after he was sold into slavery.

The story is so familiar, and we know how it turns out, so it's easy to skim over what must have been a long, horrible struggle for this young man. How many dark nights of the soul did he have while he was in that prison? How did he feel when he remembered that long-ago dream? God seemed to have shown him a bright future in which he had great standing. So why did God let him be locked away for a crime he didn't commit? Finally there was a bright moment; someone promised to try to get him released. Joseph's hopes must have soared. His faith started to awaken, and then...nothing. Day after day after day passed, with no change.

The scriptures don't really tell us what Joseph went through during those years of waiting for release. Interestingly, in the parts of the story that are told, Joseph's faith seems more steadfast than Abraham's, who had a direct promise from God as to how things would turn out. Abraham eventually grew tired of waiting and tried to do things his own way. Joseph always seems to stand firm. Still, those two years must have been hard, with that dream of freedom growing dimmer and dimmer every day.

Then one day--a day that must have started off just like all the others--the waiting was over. God's time for him had come. The former inmate remembered Joseph, and suddenly he was released. He gained power in Pharaoh's household. His family was restored to him.

My prayer for myself, and for all of us that dream, is that we will be able to determine whether our dreams are from God. And if they are, that we will not be shaken from our faith and hope during those long nights in prison. Here's to all my fellow Josephs out there! I salute you all for holding to your dreams.