In my family, we like to do it up big. We’re busy trying to go to the moon, but we’re also contracting rare diseases that puzzle medical professionals. When I draw a timeline of my life, these high highs and low lows, these peaks and pits, they happen at exactly the same time. Some say it’s like two railroad tracks traveling simultaneously to the lands of Good and Bad, but I see it more like throwing a ball up in the air and knowing that what goes up, well, it must come down.
It’s why we get a little leery of the quiet, the calm of the everything-in-between moments. What’s coming next? If someone sends me a check in the mail for the exact amount I need to cover that medical bill, I sort of want to sharpie, “RETURN TO SENDER.” I’m onto you, Sender. That promotion, that relationship, that house, that good bill of health, there’s something lurking right behind. And I don’t want it.
Joseph, on the other hand, has not learned this lesson. In Genesis 37, he’s living his best life, dreaming big dreams, wrapped in an ornate robe as the favorite child, when all of the sudden, his life changes forever. His brothers threw him into a pit.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “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.”
As Jess shared this week at Dig Deep, we tend to remember the peaks and the pits. We forget all the other ordinary moments.
It’s the everything in between that doesn’t make our life timeline.
I remember from when I was little, I started playing this game with myself where I would close my eyes in the middle of a trivial moment and say, “I want to remember this forever.” But it wouldn’t work. It would be something like the way a breeze felt on a boat ride, or the taste of my dad’s meatloaf, or the exact words from a conversation with a friend. I don’t even remember what the moments were when I was little, but I do know that it’s not possible to hold onto every moment in our memories.
We tell the story differently every time we go back to retrieve a memory. Every version of the meatloaf blends together, every boat ride becomes one boat ride. And we cling to the good, in a sort of survival mode to erase the bad. It’s the Disney World effect, a magical land that turns an in-the-moment ranking of 5 into a 9 when we look back on the experience. (My brother spent all of our trip to Disney puking in the bushes, therefore, the whole family spent the trip hovering bushes. But I got Buzz Lightyear’s autograph! So it’s a 10!)
Joseph doesn’t give us much to work with in this story. He’s silent while his brothers betray him. So is God. It’s a timeline moment, for sure, not just a trivial moment he’ll try to hold onto, but does he realize that at the time? Does he feel angry with God for this pit that follows a peak? (If only he had left us a diary.)
Maybe he cried out like David in Psalm 13. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” Or maybe he ended with David’s same tone of gratitude, when he said, “But I trust in your unfailing love.”
The best news that I’ve learned over the years is that God transforms the pits. He uses them for good. It doesn’t make it hurt less in the moment, but it will come. He transforms our messy and broken moments.
Jess said it like this: “Gratitude gives us our footing in the peaks and the pits.”
So we shouldn’t be afraid of our big dreams to reach the moon. Wherever the ball drops, He’ll be there. We need every kind of moment to live a good story.
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