Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate what really took place when all it is to you is words on a page. Think about history for a moment. Pick any historical narrative, and then consider how you view that memory. You likely see it in your mind as a still picture. Maybe you see it as a short video clip; that would be minimally closer to reality. But, have you ever tried to place yourself inside those scenes? Have you ever tried to live out “a day in the life” of the real person who actually endured what you experience as a photograph or a movie?
I’ve actually done that. I’ve tried to imagine myself as a soldier during the American Civil War. I’ve pictured myself frozen in my tent at night, with soaking wet boots, no way to keep warm, hardly a fragment of food, and desperately missing my loved ones. I’ve contemplated the real possibility of dying the next day, or worse yet, becoming mutilated and having to die in slow motion, while laying twisted and broken on a mucky and icy battlefield, as my life slowly slipped away, afraid, in agony, and maybe with some regrets. And what I just described is a single day in what could have lasted four years for many real soldiers. Just one dark night, of 1,488 dark nights, is all I’ve imagined. Has this gruesome painting become visceral enough for you, real enough?
Now, try reading the Bible the same way, imagining being there in real time. For a moment, stop painting pictures of characters on a page and, instead, see yourself as the one who had to endure Joseph’s 13 years of pain and sorrows, or his father’s agony of loss for 22 years. Have you ever tried to imagine yourself being there and what it would really take to persevere for so many years? Or, do you rather stay hyper-focused on your own little world of immediate needs?
Let’s practice. The Bible describes these years in just one sentence. You can dismiss it as quickly as it takes to read, or you can contemplate all the years this sentence represents. “Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation.” One verse…three generations. You can assume it was all sunshine and rainbows and move on, or you can further investigate Ephraim’s life and witness what it took for Joseph to see those three generations. Reality check! Ephraim’s first three sons, Shuthelah, Ezer and Elead were all murdered. Yes, “Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation,” but first he witnessed the horror of his grandsons being murdered. It’s so much more than one verse.
My admonition to you today is to stop focusing on yourself for a day, and try imagining what that was like for Joseph and Ephraim. And then go one step further and feel all their pain while still proclaiming “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”