June 12, 2013 - When Jacob was told of Joseph's death, being shown the precious coat that he had given to him torn and covered with blood, he went into mourning.
All his sons and daughters tried to comfort him; "but he refused to be comforted, and said, 'No, I shall go down to Sheol (Hell) to my son, mourning.'" Gen. 37:35.
Mourning is a hellish, "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mt 8:12), torturing experience that none of us want to go through and yet most of us encounter to some degree in our lives.
The loss of a job, a spouse, a dream, any loss can be devastating, crushing and life changing. Grief and mourning are a natural human response to loss.
Yet, in Jacob's case, the hell of mourning was not brought on by truth but by a lie; Joseph was not dead. Jacob's grief was truly useless, unnecessary, suffering. He could have easily been angry and punishing when he found out the truth.
Joseph had every right to be bitter and resentful. He was robbed of his precious coat and sold into slavery by his brothers, made a servant in Potiphar's house, wrongly imprisoned, forgotten and alone.
Still, when the truth was revealed and Jacob, Joseph and their family were reunited there was no blaming or shaming, no resentment or punishment, only rejoicing.
They knew, as Joseph said, "As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good" Gen. 50:20.
These are some of the most powerful words in the Bible. What if we were able to meet all of life's challenges this way? What if we could allow ourselves to feel the full range of human emotions deeply? What if we managed to come through the other side still confident and assured of Divine Wisdom and Love as our guiding light?
Instead most of us live in some measure of guilt, shame or blame for the past and fear, doubt or worry for the future.
With one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow we are wasting on today. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, the gift is in today that is why it is called the present.
We learn from the past, plan for the future and live for today. Freed from the guilt, shame and blame of the past, freed from the fear, doubt and worry of the future, we are free to be all that we are created to be in the now.
"First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Mt. 5:24. Forgiveness is a gift we give, so that our hearts and minds can live.
Resentment is a poison that we drink, to hurt the other so we think. The divine in you is what I see, from the divine within me. I forgive you and you forgive me, we forgive ourselves and we are free.
A friend reminded me recently that no matter what has occurred for me in this day, I can always choose to start over. I can "repent" (Mt. 3:2) or think again with a new level of understanding.
I can "become like children" (Mt. 18:3) unburdened by preconceived notions about life and living. I can be "born anew" (Jn. 3:3) into an awareness of God, Spirit's, presence in all that I experience.
Today I choose to be "the light of the world." Mt. 5:14. I choose not to walk in darkness but in the light of spiritual awareness. I choose to know that whatever is occurring for me in the outer world it is for my good and the good of all.
Truly, "If God is for us, who is against us?" Romans 8:31. I choose to feel the full range of human emotions deeply, knowing that it is a gift to be all that I am created to be. And, I choose to move forward into the joy of peace, wholeness and abundance that is mine to realize in this now moment.
Blessings of peace, joy & love
The Rev. Matthew E. Long is senior minister at Peace Unity Community.