Friday, May 15, 2009

The Wonder Years

When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream (Genesis 41:1).

Two years had passed. It had been two years since the cupbearer had returned to work for Pharaoh, two years since the chief baker’s execution. Joseph had tried to leverage his connections and good favor with the cupbearer to secure his own release from prison. Nothing had happened. One day would yield to the next, forming weeks, forming years.

“Remember me,” Joseph had said to the cupbearer. But the cupbearer forgot. Twenty four silent months passed.

And then Pharaoh had a dream: emaciated cows devouring plump cows, thin heads of grain consuming healthy heads of grain. Like most dreams, weird stuff. Pharaoh was bothered enough to seek the counsel of his spiritual advisors, magicians and wise men. They were stumped.

That’s when the cupbearer had a flashback, a snippet of conversation from two years prior, a quick promise as he made his way through the prison gates. Turns out the cupbearer didn’t really forget Joseph. He just remembered him very, very slowly.

“I know someone who can help,” the cupbearer offered. And then, finally, Joseph’s moment came. A chance to prove himself to someone other than a prison warden. A chance at freedom, two years in the making.

We know all too well how time passes. What we know far less about is what the passing of time does to us. Yes, we pull pages from the calendar and see the wrinkles becoming more visible around the eyes and mouth. But time’s real work is done in unseen places.

When our children are growing, two years is like a weekend. For someone sitting in prison, two years is large piece of life and they move like a glacier. Either way, it’s the movement of time that does something to us, working on our soul the way sandpaper works on wood, exposing the grain, bringing out patterns and beauty that were there but needed time to emerge.

We are given no information about those two years – the time that lapsed between Joseph’s request to be remembered and the moment when his name and vitae were placed before the Pharaoh. We are left to wonder. What was the point? Why so long? What were those years good for? The scripture offers no answers. Call these the wonder years.

You may have your own wonder years. Why were you transferred to Chicago for four years? Why did you give yourself to a marriage of twenty three years that eventually tanked? Why did you give your prime years to a company that decided it had no use for you? The time gets by us. What was it about? We are left to wonder.

But God is the God of time. Every moment counts. And as the time moves we are being shaped, formed, refined, tempered. The Psalmist said it well. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

All of your days have significance, and that includes this one. Every day that makes up a year – and especially the days that make up your wonder years.

What we wonder about is fully known to you, O God. You are the maker and giver of time. Teach us to live this day with gratitude. Make us patient before you as you use our days and years to shape the image of Jesus in us. And change our wonder years from a time of confusion and questioning to a season or wonder-filled worship, we pray. Amen.

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