One of my favorite places in the world is Saint Mary’s College Chapel. I am so blessed to live less than a 10-minute drive away from this sanctuary, this place where I can consistently find a quiet, peaceful space to sit, relax, and enjoy the overall privilege of slipping away to just be with God.
Things were tense at home last Thursday, and I felt really agitated and anxious. In times like those, all I desire is the comfort of my Father, to be in His presence and feel Him bring my soul out of chaos and into serene stillness. Time spent with Him gives me clarity of mind and He renews my strength and resolve to continue to live with Christ’s love towards the people He has brought, and will bring, into my life. When I arrived at the chapel last Thursday, I sat down in one of the pews in the back. Even though I have been to this place many times, I still like to spend a few moments to take in my surroundings. At the front is a crucifix:
This picture really doesn’t even capture one-tenth of the beauty of this place. The stained glass windows have a deep, rich purple background, and when the sunlight filters through them, the interior of the chapel just swims in a multitude of colors.
After a while, I knelt down on the kneeler board, took off my glasses, and just closed my eyes. I silently reveled in this experience of tranquility, and when I opened my eyes, I looked back up at the crucifix and saw this:
Which is exactly what you would expect to see if you’ve got really poor eyesight and have gone without your corrective lenses. I knew that the chapel was beautiful because I still remembered what it looked like when I had my glasses on, and as I reached to put them back on again, I just felt really grateful to have them.
That thought stuck with me for a bit, and as I thought about what life might be like without them, if I didn’t have insurance or a job and could all of a sudden not afford them… A small amount of panic began to rise in me as I sat with that thought and the implications of being without corrective lenses began to play through my mind. I would be in pretty bad shape. It would be infinitely harder to get around. I could no longer drive. I would be unable to do my job. A lot of the things that I pride myself on being able to do, would be impossible for me.
And I really believe that at that point, God prompted me to remember a certain passage in Genesis that I had read earlier that day. After Joseph interpreted the dreams of both Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and his chief baker, and the events came to pass (Pharaoh reinstated his chief cupbearer, but executed his chief baker), the chief cupbearer forgot all about him, and Joseph languished in prison for “two whole years” (Genesis 41:1). After that, Pharaoh had a dream that none of his magicians could interpret for him, and the chief cupbearer suddenly remembered Joseph.
“14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:14-16)
When I first read over Joseph’s answer to Pharaoh in verse 16, I felt like rolling my eyes a little. What a “Sunday school”/get-me-out-of-this-tight-spot answer.
But as I sat inside the chapel and thought about how utterly helpless I felt as I realized how quickly and absolutely my life would change without the ability to see, I pondered afresh how he could say what he said, without any hesitation, to Pharaoh.
I came to see that I definitely take a lot for granted. And what’s worse, even though I might not ever voice this opinion outloud, my actions and attitudes show that there is a part of me that believes I deserve good things. Moreover, another portion believes that that is so because I possess an inflated view of what I think are my own abilities. What do I have that I have not worked for, that I do not, consequently, deserve?
Joseph, on the other hand, had come a long way from being his father’s favorite, the envy of his older brothers, and the one who had unabashedly shared two dreams that his family would one day bow before him (Genesis 37). I believe that God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, put Joseph through the trials that he went through to show him what I got a glimpse of today – that we see, breathe, move, and exist by the very grace of God alone. There is nothing I bring. There is nothing I add.
Joseph knew this to be true after seeing God’s mighty arm take him through each and every painful, seemingly impossible to redeem situation he found himself in, and it was from such a deep conviction born of experience that he told Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
God will give. God is giving right now. God has already given.
Too often I strive for what I don’t have, and I end up forgetting that there is so, so much that I already have been given. Why can’t I exercise more gratitude? Why can’t I exercise more faith in God’s provision knowing that He will never change?
I know I need to. I pray that as I recount all the ways God has shown His mighty arm and redemption in my life, that I would become humble and confident like Joseph.