Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Welcome to Egypt

So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt (Genesis 37:28).

I had had enough of Texas.

I had no reason to be there. I had no family anywhere west of the Mississippi river. There was a perfectly fine seminary in North Carolina – a school from which my father and uncle had both graduated. I was in my second year of seminary and I had made up my mind that after that year I would transfer. I would go back east where trees grew large and the land rolled.

And then a phone call came from a man in Oklahoma. He was serving as interim pastor to a new congregation on the outskirts of Ardmore – yet another place out there I’d never even heard of. He had to be out of town one week in October and he asked if I’d make the drive from Fort Worth and preach in his absence. I said I would.

Within a month I was called as pastor to that fledgling church.

North Carolina was the state of my birth, a place where I had roots. I had “people” there. Getting back would take another twelve years. Rather than transfer to my Dad’s alma mater, I began a five year season of my life in which I made a weekly pilgrimage from Fort Worth, through Denton, over the Red River, to a small church in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be in Oklahoma. Ever. For any reason. And I will forever cherish that place and those people.

To my surprise, God was in Oklahoma too. And God blessed me there. I grew to love the wide open land, the abundance of cattle, the pork v. beef barbeque debate, the family that took me in and gave me a home. I found so much grace in a place I never intended to be.

On the day that Jacob told Joseph, “Go check on your brothers and let me know how they’re doing,” Egypt could not have been further from Joseph’s mind. He ends up in Egypt against his will and apart from his own plans. Joseph had plenty of dreams – but Egypt never showed up in any of them. He never saw Egypt coming, never saw himself going there. Ever. For any reason.

And the same can be said for some of you. You may find yourself in a place today you never intended to be. You’re there because the company told you to move; you’re there because you married someone from there; you’re there because there’s something you’re trying to escape and leave behind; you’re there because there’s something you’re hoping to find. But wherever it is, it was never a part of your plan for your life. Welcome to Egypt.

The connection between place and grace is a Holy mystery. God shows up in surprising ways in places like Egypt. We may spend time wondering how to get “home” or anyplace else – but God has things to accomplish in the place you find yourself today. God is at work in Egypt, and God just might intend to do that work through you.

Where is your Egypt? How might God be at work (through you) in that place?

Remind me today, O Lord, that my place is not an accident. Forgive my complaining and my dreams of escaping to someplace else. I will be vigilant today for signs of your presence in this place. Help me to be still in my place long enough to see them. Amen.


Victoria said...

I will forward this post to Robby - our entire 5 years of marriage have been "Egypt." Two miscarriages, a medically fragile child, a lay off, Cobra health benefits expiring tomorrow, a rental house destroyed by tenants ... God has orchestrated our lives in ways we never would have imagined or desired when we said "I do."

Nancy said...

I’d been living on the bitter cold shores of Lake Erie, hating my job, yet numbly going through the motions year after year. Worse yet, I was about to get a huge promotion with an impressive title, neither of which I really wanted. I’d been there 17 winters, thinking I’d never get out. Then one Friday night, already bundled up to leave my office and brace for yet another blizzard, the phone rang. I debated whether to answer it or not, but a sense of duty forced me to pick up the call.

At first I though it was a cruel joke. A dream job opportunity in Atlanta? You’re kidding me, right? Come on, who is this?? The caller laughed and assured me it was for real. I knew the minute I hung up the phone that God was at work. Can’t tell you much about the next 2 weeks, but it included a 2 day interview, a job offer, a small earth quake (no kidding!) and several men in my home packing all my belonging and loading them into a truck. I never lifted a finger. That was 23 years ago, and while there have been plenty of ups and downs, not one blizzard. I still wake up every morning and marvel at The Garden I’ve been dropped into!