Brilliant hues filled the western sky as the sun spoke its soothing benediction on the day. Yet an unbound restlessness still invaded his soul. A restlessness Joseph had wrestled with hour upon hour, not unlike Jacob, his ancestor of long ago. Now, when the day-without-end actually bid shalom, he knew himself no closer to an answer.
Even here, held safely within the seclusion of his house, a house he’d build with his own hands, built with such hope, such joyous anticipation of the future, shalom, peace, wasn't his portion. Not even seeds of peace.
Slowly, awareness of a covering of voices, lifted heavenward from house to house, spilled upon Joseph and he joined his own to the ever-rising chorus.
“Hear, O Israel, the LORD is God, the LORD alone. And you shall love the LORD thy God with all your life.”
As though borne up by invisible wings, Joseph’s outstretched arms rose higher and higher, each utterance torn from his heart, until he seemed to lay hold of heaven Himself.
For the longest time, well after the other voices faded, no longer even an echo on the wind, Joseph remained unmoving, holding tightly to an invisible hand.
Slowly, line by line, the deep etchings wrought by the day’s pain began to fade from his face. As though for the first time, he breathed deeply. Calmly.
“Blessed be Thou, O LORD, giver of life. You who, knowing the beginning from the end, restores my soul.”
Letting go at last, though still resting within its touch, Joseph lowered his arms. Opening his eyes, he noted darkness truly had fallen. Not the darkness of soul he’d felt when first he’d stepped through his doorway earlier, without lighting the lamp.
This was a quiet stillness. A pause that came with the lifting of the pen at the end of a page, the next not yet turned, not yet readied for the writing to come.
He was tired. Though the strain of the day had lifted, it had left him wearied. No point in trying to eat. He wasn’t hungry. Undoubtedly, that need would return with the morning. Right now, he just wanted rest, and he didn’t need light to cross the room to his bed.
Joseph’s shadow differed from others filling the chamber only by its movement. Like one traveling familiar territory, his darker self flowed with ease around fixed obstacles that would leave their mark on less familiar souls. Until he came to the nook. A nook just large enough to nestle two-having-become-one within its tender embrace.
Here his steps stumbled.
For the longest time, Joseph simply stared into the void only his soul could see. Again, slowly, arms reaching heavenward, a whispered utterance fell upon Hallowed ears. Into his supplication, a stirring, unseen by the darkness, fell gently … resting a covering of blessing upon him.
Sheltered in its presence, Joseph lowered his arms, drawing the comfort tightly about the biting loneliness now so unexpectedly his.
It wasn’t how it was supposed to be. It was how it was.
Accepting, at last, the portion he’d wished never to taste, in the darkness Joseph wrapped himself in Heaven’s unfailing faithfulness. But he couldn’t lay within that chamber. Not now. Not yet.
With unseeing eyes, faith reached through the shadows and grasped the sheepskins. Spreading them upon the clay floor, he sank into their embrace. And slept.
It was a fitful sleep. Filled with mutterings.
Had any human ear been present, all they would have recognized were the oft-repeated familiar, “Blessed be Thou, O LORD ….” The rest remained unintelligible, meant for other ears. Ears never turning away. Ears hearing and storing up every cry of faith’s wounded heart.
Again and again, throughout the shadows of a night growing ever darker, the sleep-borne blessing rose heavenward, filling the throne room of the King. While heaven watched, fitfulness passed, ushering in a deep, deep sleep birthed only in submission’s soil.
Upon that soil, Light now tread, filling Joseph’s humble abode with His presence.
“Joseph!” He stirred.
“Son of David!” The stirring turned to wakefulness … then heart-pounding awareness.
Rising to his knees, head pressing firmly, reverently, against the hard-packed earth, Joseph’s whispered, “Here I am, LORD,” melted into a living light filling every corner of the room.
“Be not afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
The words, responding to a celestial music unknown to the ears of man, danced one rapturous step after another into Joseph’s heart. There was no stopping them. No desire to stop them. Not on Joseph’s part. Not on heaven’s part.
“And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name The LORD is Salvation, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Light faded, making room for dawn.
Joseph, left kneeling upon the sheepskin covering holding his sleeping form only moments before, didn’t stir. Hardly breathed.
He kept hearing light-borne words, swirling faster and faster, piercing their way deeper and deeper into his soul. Words of direction. Words of choice. Words begging him to embrace them … as his own hope.
“You shall call His name The LORD is Salvation. You shall call … You …”
Clarity fell upon Joseph’s heart. Clarity missing even from the submission’s soil having borne him up during the watches of this dark, dark night. A blessing now molding his clay. Tenderly. Unfalteringly. Compassionately. Clarity allowing Joseph, at last, to release every single vestige of his own plans, his own ways.
No salvation lay in them. He saw that now, clearly. There was only One Salvation. Without hesitation, still resting upon the sheepskin covering, Joseph reached towards the blessing, drawing it to himself. Into himself, where it came, at last, to dwell.
When ability to form words, breathe them outward, breathe them upward returned, all he could think of to send after the light was the song that had cradled him morning and night, every day of his life.
“Blessed be Thou, O LORD … Blessed be Thou, my sole salvation.”
Rising slowly to his feet, Joseph dared a glance toward the little nook that in the darkness just passed held such pain. Blessing now filled it with light.