Monday, October 11, 2010


Life seldom delivers what we expect. The divorce rate is vivid proof. Even our long-anticipated holidays, celebrations and vacations almost never pack the same "punch" we've dreamed of. Why is that? Are our expectations too high or do we live life too low? One of the worst demolitions of our family's expectations was our nearly canceled cruise to Australia/New Zealand. It was Christmas 2008, and Portland experienced its worst snowstorm in thirty years – closing the airport and causing us to miss the first four days of our 14-day cruise. Portland's blast of winter cost us our tour of Australia, and we had to meet the ship in New Zealand (which was beautiful, by the way). We were thankful, of course, but we had so looked forward to seeing Australia, since our interest had been peeked years earlier when our daughter applied to be an exchange student there but was reassigned. Most importantly, however, for weeks and months, we expected a glorious Christmas with our precious parents-of-the-heart, who were to meet us in LA so we could be together on the ship for Christmas. Instead, they spent Christmas on the ship alone, and we sat in the LA airport – a nine hour layover before a 14-hour trans-Pacific flight. Yep, our girls are pictured above with their single present and our pile of carry-on luggage.

But we adjusted our expectations! The new plan was to meet a cruise-line representative in Auckland, New Zealand. Alas, no one met us, so we adjusted expectations again and boarded the ship the next day. Finally underway, our cruise was wonderful, beautiful, splendid. Just not what we expected…

Gen. 37:12-14 – "Now [Joseph‘s] brothers had gone to graze their father's flocks near Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, 'As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.'
'Very well,' he replied.
So he said to him, 'Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.' Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron."
  • Joseph was about seventeen years old when his father, Jacob (Israel), expected him to travel fifty miles from Hebron to Shechem to find his brothers.
Gen. 37:15-18 – "When Joseph arrived at Shechem, a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, 'What are you looking for?'
He replied, 'I'm looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?'
'They have moved on from here,' the man answered. 'I heard them say, "Let's go to Dothan."' So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him."
  • Joseph was relentless in his search for his brothers – no doubt because he wanted to meet his father‘s expectations.
Gen. 37:19-20 – "'Here comes that dreamer!' they said to each other. 'Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we‘ll see what comes of his dreams.'"
  • Joseph’s brothers' hate had escalated into murderous thoughts – they expected to be rid of him forever.
Gen. 37:21-22 – "When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. 'Let's not take his life,' he said. 'Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him.' Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father."
  • Reuben expected to appease his brothers' hatred and rescue Joseph later – he expected to become a hero in his father's eyes.
Gen. 37:23-24 – "So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it."
  • Imagine the welcome Joseph expected. He'd searched from Hebron to Shechem to Dothan and finally found his surly brothers. Instead of welcome or appreciation, he received a waterless grave. Was the depth of their hate a surprise to Joseph? Had he expected them to go this far? The shock and betrayal of a family member is a deep wound. Though the author of Genesis later reveals Joseph's emotions during his captivity in Egypt, here there is no mention of Joseph's reaction. Not a single word, thought or prayer. Sometimes there are no words to describe the pain when a situation runs so completely contrary to our expectations.
Gen. 37:25-28 – "As [the brothers] sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, 'What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.' His brothers agreed. 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." (emphasis added)
  • Greed changed the brothers’ expectations. Suddenly, Judah was reminded that Joseph was their brother – an attack of conscience spurred by a lucrative opportunity. Their expectations were redefined by sin. We can rationalize an expectation, even make it appear noble – with incredibly ignoble motives. The root of our expectations is a matter of the heart.
Gen. 37:29-32 – "When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. He went back to his brothers and said, 'The boy isn't there! Where can I turn now?' Then they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, 'We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son‘s robe.'"
  • Where was Reuben when the brothers sold Joseph to the Midianites? Reuben expected to be the hero – saving Joseph and returning the favored son to their father. But because he didn't act on his convictions right away, he Reuben missed the opportunity to do the right thing. Good intentions mingled with high expectations can be nullified by procrastination.
Gen. 37:33-35 – "[Jacob] recognized it and said, 'It is my son's robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.' Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. 'No,' he said, 'in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.' So his father wept for him."
  • After seeing Joseph's robe smeared with blood Jacob expected Joseph to be dead. All the facts pointed to it, so his sons didn't need to say a word. Jacob created his own expectation without asking questions to clarify the truth. Did he blame himself for sending a boy of seventeen on such a long journey? Did he suspect his sons of foul play? Guilt, fear, anger and a host of other unhealthy emotions can send our expectations spiraling into a dark realm – like the irrevocable grieving Jacob began.
Gen. 37:36 – "Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh‘s officials, the captain of the guard."
  • Well, this is certainly about as far from Joseph’s expectations as he could get. In his dreams, his father and brothers were bowing to him. He was now a servant in a foreign land – away from everyone and everything he knew. The important lesson is this: In this moment, Joseph's life doesn't line up with the expectations God placed in his heart. However, God isn't finished with Joseph! Our lives are so much more than one moment in time, and the expectations God has for us will take a lifetime to realize.
Lord, my expectations are so very tied to the here and the now. I try to dream of what the future may hold, but my idea of the future comes much more quickly than Yours! Teach me to temper my expectations with eternity. Give me the contentment of Your timelessness.

No comments: