ONLY A CARPENTER
(A Reflection on Matthew 1:18-24)
For more than a week now, I’ve tried to get away from him … from this man scripture sheds so little light on. But, I can’t.
Everywhere I go … he’s somehow with me. His presence haunts my thoughts. Unknown eyes seek mine, pleading. I’m captured by them, with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Unable to hear, I’m left to watch.
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When did Joseph first learn of it?
Did voices suddenly hush as he entered a room?
Did condemning eyes sear his soul, leaving his heart bleeding out, before looking past him?
Did life-long friends, eyes cast downward, suddenly avoid his presence, leaving icy coldness his unexpected companion?
Or did his beloved’s voice come? Seek him out?
Did the sight of the one he cherished, the one he thought of throughout every moment of the day, cause his heart to skip a beat as she approached?
Did something in her face prepare him? Could it?
Was the unimaginable wounding then carried by her own words, a piercing that stopped his heart … left him gasping … unable to breath?
Did he run … from the words … from a truth too unbearable to imagine?
Did he look into the heavens and find … only darkness … only silence?
Did his righteous soul cry out in agony to Blessed Be the Name for understanding of the incomprehensible? And, did he feel anything but blessed?
Betrayal … his portion. A bitter brew.
Loss dug uits talons deep into vulnerable, tender soil. Loss of everthing he'd held close ... everything he'd cherished ... everything he'd yearned hungrily for.
How long did he walk the hills, alone, in grief’s grip … looking, time and again, at hands so gifted at creating, so successful at bringing joy, and see them impotent in the face of truth?
Did he wring them in despair? Clench them vengefully? Lift them in supplication?
Aching. Wounded to the depths of his being, pain chiseled away at his heart, his mind, his very soul … until grace paved a road for righteousness to walk ... one bloodied footstep at a time bearing witness to the journey.
Grace! Amazing grace! With that covering first clasped tightly to his chest, Joseph,in his heart,now holds it with shaking hands over Mary. Peace may not yet have fully found him, but it will come … in time. To this he clings, as he forms a plan lesser men might disdain.
Lying down at last, body desperate for rest, piecemeal plans swirl in a vortex of mercy and confusion. Unexpected sleep shrouds Joseph in the comfort of stillness.
I watch him, at rest. I’m thankful for the gift of peace, even if it’s to be fleeting, waiting only to dissipate with the light of dawn.
He stirs, suddenly. My heart stirs with him.
Together, like rushing floodwaters, we hear the voice.
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
The words, though borne by light, don’t flow with the comfort of quiet streams.
They’re torrential floodwaters. Cutting deeply into the banks of his heart, stripping away at plans that would bring him, bring both of them, a measure of private anonymity … and maybe, in time, a practiced peace.
But this? To do as this voice beckons would mean … would require … a lifelong willingness to … to lay bare my soul … to journey pain-filled territory, undeserved. Unsought.
“Joseph,son of David.
Son of David? Son of promise? That’s who he called me. Promise’s child.
In the remembrance of the words, a soothing comfort settles quietly around the pounding of a heart bearing more than it every expected … ever chose. A balm, fragrant, anointing the open wound, brings a physician’s healing touch, for a moment. Till reality stirs, quickening sight, setting in motion a heart-quake that will not be quieted.
“Do not be afraid.”
But I am. So afraid. I had it all worked out. I just want to be invisible. Sink back into quiet, into a familiar settledness that costs me nothing but … nothing but …
Why do I even need to approach fear’s shores?
“What is conceived … is from the Holy Spirit.”
How, LORD? You’re asking me to accept the impossible. To believe the … to believe …
How can any of this be from Your hand, Lord? Surely not. Where is the salvation, in any of this?
God with us. God … with us!
The vision vanishes.
With it, the angel.
Not his message.
It remains, nestled in a heart molded by desire. The desire to pursue God … regardless the cost.
God’s love … God’s purpose … God’s sovereign ‘I know my plans for you’ may call us to a place of hard obedience. It did Joseph, and he didn’t hesitate, despite the cost.
"God’s sovereign ‘I know my plans for you’ may call us to a place of hard obedience." And often does. Yet, with each occurence, faith is born anew and we find again that His will is perfect, that His thoughts and ways are higher than our own, that (though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death) He is with us and FOR us (so who can be against us?) and that though we be but carpenter's, our place in Christ is that of royal brethen (or sisters in our case) and He has our "time" set aside for us. How I thank God for the hard road, the high road. Were it not for the stumbling blocks turned stepping stones between our Joseph dreams and the time of their manifestations, how we would lack in humility. Praise God. Praise God. Praise God.