Friday, January 02, 2009

God With Us

Before they came together she was found to be with child.
-Matthew 1:18
I often try to imagine this story from Joseph's perspective. He's just been bethrothed. He's dreaming of his future with Mary. He's making plans for his life. And then he finds out that his bride is pregnant and he's not the father. How tough would that be?

As I read, I know how the story turns out even before Joseph does, and Matthew's telling doesn't leave even him in the dark for long, but when I try to imagine the story from Joseph's perspective, I know that life is lived in that long pause between when he find's out Mary is with child and when he meets an angel in his dream. And beyond that, he lives the rest of his life without really seeing the fulfillment of these things.

Now as Matthew tells us the story, he says all these things happened to fulfill Isaiah 7:14. In context, Isaiah 7 is a story about Judah in a time of crisis. Things aren't going the way they'd hoped. Assyria is a looming threat in the world, and Israel is trying to force Judah into war. Into this context, Isaiah tells King Ahaz to stand firm in his faith in God because "God is with us."

If Joseph were anyone else, that could have been all he needed to hear. "Joseph, things aren't going the way you planned, but stand firm in your faith. God is with us."

This is where I see the story's relevance for me. My wife isn't going to bear the Son of God, but there will be times in my life (more of them than I'd like to admit) when things aren't going to go the way I'd planned. What can I do in those times? I can only trust in God, knowing that whatever happens, God is with us.


Rachel said...

"life is lived in that long pause between when he find's out Mary is with child and when he meets an angel in his dream." --that is too right. That moment, and the moment as Mary herself contemplates the enormity of what she's being asked to do. Somewhere between "Me? Why me?" and "uhhh oh, this is going to be awkward..." I can't imagine how they felt.

And just as in that story, I can't imagine sometimes just trusting. "Yes, I know that God is with us and that this is some odd sort of destiny, but do you realize what my father/mother/fiancee will say?!" Scary. Really really scary.

Andy said...

Yeah, it is really scary when God has something for us to do like that, but I was thinking (off the track of the gospel reading a bit) more of the times when things just don't go our way more generally.

Specifically, I was thinking of when my mother died. That threw a major twist into my vision for what the rest of my life was going to be like, to say the least. But I suppose even then there was something God expected of me: God expected me to go on living.

And that's the kind of thing this reading evoked in me this week -- those times when our world is turned upside down and all we can do is keep living in our new, changed situation.

I had just read a quote the night before from an early North African Christian named Lactantius who said that virtue is "nothing less than 'enduring of evils and labors'" (from the Forward to "The Rule of Benedict"). In retrospect, I suppose that shaped how I heard this text.