I cried in the Chicago Airport.
And these were not tough guy, lumberjack, I just punched a mountain lion in the face with my bare fist kind of tears. These were sad and tired and give up tears.
I was flying home from a conference in Chicago. I had been the closing keynote speaker and it had gone really well. That’s not what I was crying about though. I was crying because of what I knew would happen when I landed.
I knew I would take the train to my car, grab work clothes, change in the handicapped stall and then disappear into a sea of cubicles. I didn’t hate my job, not at all, it just wasn’t what I felt called to do. The Stuff Christians Book wasn’t out yet, but the site was doing well. I had this completely different life starting to develop and it was hard to go back to work and act like Chicago had all been just a dream.
This was long before the opportunity at Dave Ramsey. This was a doldrums period where I was just writing and writing and writing, but things weren’t happening the way I thought they would.
I sat in meetings about TPS reports and budgets and would get frustrated with God, wondering if he even saw me. Wasn’t he the one who put this burning in my heart? Wasn’t it his call that I was answering? This wasn’t how life was supposed to go.
Have you ever felt that way?
Has there ever been a situation where you had an expectation that you felt like God simply wasn’t meeting? I think most of us have experienced that.
Right now, someone reading this blog is mourning a marriage that fell apart. You wanted to be the first in your family to have a grandkid for your parents, not the first to get divorced.
Right now, someone is in a gray cubicle and the degree they got, the passion they followed in college is a million miles away from how they spend 40+ hours every week.
Right now, there’s someone struggling with an issue that refuses to release it’s talons even though you’re occasionally able to shake it for a few “good weeks.”
Right now, someone had to send out wedding cancellation notes, because it’s off.
Right now, there’s a man who feels a lot less than a man because he doesn’t have a job and can’t provide for his family.
Right now there are a million different versions of “Don’t you see me God?” happening. And so we doubt and get angry and lonely. But we are not the only ones with expectations that go astray.
In Genesis 48, the same thing happens to Joseph, of the double rainbow coat fame. He has brought his two sons to his father Israel for his blessing. We don’t understand this culturally because we don’t really do this anymore, but this was a critical, massive thing that was about to take place. Manasseh was about to receive Israel’s blessing. That was what should happen. That was what Joseph expected.
Joseph the faithful. Joseph the former slave, former convict, former saved all of Egypt from death and destruction. Joseph had a great track record at this point. He was a deeply wise man of God. He knew what was about to happen. By lineage, by tradition, by faith, Manasseh was about to get blessed by Israel.
Only he doesn’t.
It doesn’t happen that way. Instead of doing what he should have done, Israel crosses his arms and forms an X, placing his hands on the heads of the wrong children. He blesses Ephraim, the wrong son in Joseph’s mind.
And in 48:17 we see what happens: When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.
Joseph has lived his entire life with one belief about how a blessing is passed down. This is his, “I got my Master’s Degree in teaching, I should get a teaching job” moment. This is his, “People get married after college, that’s what they do,” moment. This is what he’s always been ready for and it goes the exact opposite way.
So Joseph, like me or you trying to fix a mistake, says, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”
And how does Israel respond? Does he say, “Oh, I am failing of sight and made a mistake?” Does he reply, “Thank you for correcting this situation?”
He says simply, “I know, my son, I know.”
And that is an incredibly tender thing to say as someone’s expectations crumble.
And I think it’s something God still says to us, even today.
“I know, my son, I know. I know, my daughter, I know. That thing you wanted is not going to happen. Not the way you’ve always dreamed. I know this hurts. I know this stings. I know you feel like I am distant or not aware of where you are and who hurt you and what you think life was supposed to be like. I know in moments like this you doubt that I can count the hairs on your head or have your best in mind. But please, I am not done. I have barely started to reveal your life to you. I am the God who satisfies your desires with good things. That is me! And when it comes to your hopes and your fears and your dreams, I know, my son, I know.”
I think of this moment as the “soft x.”
I think of the tenderness of Israel with his arms outstretched and crossed. I think of our desires and our dreams and the times they don’t work. Because those times will come. God is not an ATM, bound by our whims. Christ promises us that in this world we will have trouble. But above all, when I think of that soft x I think of a God who wants to tell you he hears you, he loves you, he knows you. He is not disconnected or disinterested in who you are and who you want to be. Today, he says,
“I know, my son, I know.”
(Originally posted December 1, 2010)