How can you help a student who feels trapped by the brokenness they have experienced? How often do they use their family history as an excuse for behavior that dishonors God?
Joe came from a bit of a broken family. His father had twelve children by four different women – two of whom he was married to and two others who were hired by the wives as live-in nanny’s. Not to mention that Joe’s dad had a long-standing conflict with his brother…Joe’s uncle…a man he swindled way back…so family gatherings could be tense and uncomfortable.
The saga continues: Joe’s only sister was assaulted by a bully, who had the nerve to later ask if he could marry her (sounds noble under the circumstances, doesn’t it?). Some of her brothers were so ticked off that they killed the offending guy and all of his friends and relatives. Ouch.
For Joe, who could be accused of being a bit aloof, off in his dreams, and who mostly avoided the family mess, the real trouble started when his dad favored him above his eleven older brothers. His dad missed the parenting seminar on how not to cause sibling rivalry that is a present and ongoing reality in the lives of many children.
Since killing people was in the brother’s history, they schemed and plotted to do away with Joe. They ended up selling little Joe into slavery to travelers from another country – which was a step or two below flat out murder. Then they went home and lied about it to their parents.
In our modern culture, Joe’s story sounds just like the sort of script that would appeal to a reality show writer. With such a range of experiences, you can imagine how Joe sounded as he introduced himself to other freshman students in the lounge in his dorm. Can you see how some might extend Joe the “victim” card and excuse him from any “normal” expectations for an adult? After all, imagine the mess he turned out to be? But it wasn’t his fault, right?
So did he: (a) Become a bitter, angry, mass murderer? (b) Refuse to trust anyone in authority? (c) Leave home with a bad attitude toward his parents, threatening never to return? (d) Marry and divorce several times because of his dad’s poor example? (e) Get into drugs and alcohol as an escape to dull the pain of his dysfunctional family story? (f) Ultimately work through years of suffering and ridicule, false accusations that led to time in prison, and rise to become second-in-command in the country that imprisoned him, before he rescued that same country from famine?
Read Genesis 39:1-21.
Joe was not one who complained about his circumstances, or got into trouble on purpose. Yes, trouble found him often, but Joe continued to trust and obey God and overcame his flawed history. What an example! He could have said, “My dad was too easy on me and caused my brothers to hate me.” Or “My mom did not take good care of me.” Joe took responsibility, did what he knew to be right, ran from an inappropriate sexual encounter, was wrongly sent to prison, depended on God’s strength, and was later vindicated…with a job promotion.
Who would want to be Joe? No one would choose his back-story. But we should all want to be the kind of God-honoring person he became despite the troubles he faced. Live communally. Like Joe, we need to do what is right – no matter what. With God, tests can become triumphs.
Love is a verb,
©2014 by Mike Olejarz