“You don’t need novocaine. I’m just going to use this drill to shape your tooth a little.”
My dentist told me that yesterday. If I didn’t have a complicated contraption in my mouth at the time, I would have replied, “You’re using a high powered drill to shape my tooth and you don’t feel like that requires novocaine? Seriously? Novocaine was meant for moments like this like the Kardashians were meant to date professional athletes.”
I didn’t say that though and he proceeded to drill. Instead of drugs I just went to my “happy place,” which is currently the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.
I went to the dentist in an emergency because my teeth have been killing me for a few days. One in particular feels like it sustained a shock greater than the Bachelor and his “love” interest “breaking up.”
My dentist took one look at my mouth and saw the problem. Stress. I’ve been grinding my teeth at night while I sleep. Wrestling and clenching my jaw in anxiety. And I know why.
These have been some crazy days.
My oldest daughter is entering the first grade. I’m writing a second book. CNN is letting me share the gospel on their site. Some fun opportunities and ugly challenges that make my head spin have popped up. And to be honest with you, I kind of want God to use some sort of voodoo on the whole situation.
I want to click ruby red slippers and wake up with everything figured out. I want the wisdom of the journey without the walking. But life doesn’t work that way and neither does God. This is something I reminded of every time I read the story of Joseph.
We know his story. He was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was wrongly thrown into prison. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream with God’s guidance and became the second most powerful man in Egypt. We know that, but a counselor once forced me to look at that story with different eyes.
He said part of what’s amazing about Joseph is not just where he ended up but where he came from. If you look at his family tree, it is littered with funk. It is a recipe for generational sin.
Abraham lied and prostituted his wife. Not once, but twice. He doubted God’s ability to provide a child so severely that he started another family with his maidservant. Isaac repeated the same mistake by whoring out his wife too. He also created a household where he had a favorite son and his wife had a different one. Jacob and Esau were a mess, with Jacob stealing Esau’s birthright. Jacob then proceeds to repeat his father’s mistake by creating a favorite son, Joseph.
One can only wonder what would have happened to Joseph if he had stayed in that environment. Credited with perhaps being the cockiest Israelite ever, chances are he would have been a mess if he stayed at home parading about in an “I’m better than you v-neck rainbow robe.” But he didn’t stay home and he didn’t wreck his life by repeating the same mistakes as his family. He turned things around. So how did Joseph transform into an awe-inspiring man of God in charge of Egypt?
It’s simple, he suffered. He was sold into slavery. He spent years in a dungeon. He hit his bottom and found God waiting to lift him up. He was refined by the trials and tribulations of his life.
I do not like suffering. I do not like hard times or wish them upon anyone. I think God works through blessings too and that going through suffering is not the answer to all of life’s challenges. But in my 34 years, I cannot dismiss the clarity of God’s voice when all other distractions are removed from my life in the middle of a crisis.
And when I think about suffering, I am required by Christian blogger law to write about someone I’ve written about before, Job. I want to look at my own periods of confusion like Job did in chapter 23:9-10:
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
How did Joseph break the dysfunction that had hurt his family for generations?
He came forth as gold.
Being shaped is never easy. Becoming gold is never as easy or as quick as I would like it to be. Have you ever felt that way? Whether it’s a job that is slowly wearing you down or a relationship that feels tangled or a dream that is dying on the vine as you work somewhere to pay the bills, life is not always easy. And to be honest, there are days when I want to yell, “Where are you God? I catch no glimpse of you!”
But the truth for me and the truth for you, is that he is at work.
Even if we do not see him. Even if we catch no glimpse of him. Even if the testing weighs heavy, he is in motion. He is unchanging. He is relentless with his grace and mercy and love.
He knows the way we take.
And he will bring us forth as gold.