I was overcome with emotion; so many years of wounding that I thought I had dealt with were coming back in force. It was too much. I was awash in a flood of simultaneous feelings: anger, hope, relief, hurt, love and the idea that God was bringing things back together for my healing. It simply overwhelmed me.
I came from a mixed family. My father had children with multiple wives, and, like many such situations, this caused a lot of problems and dysfunction. I was talented, even as a kid, and that delighted my parents. My father expressed that delight with favor and expensive gifts. He made it clear that he liked me better than my brothers, and as you can imagine, my brothers just "loved" that about me. To make matters worse, I flaunted my status with them and took every opportunity to rub their noses in it.
That eventually caused a rift that went farther than I ever imagined. Human trafficking became the measured and reasonable response that saved me from being murdered. I was sold as a slave, and through a series of events, I ended up in prison before God eventually pulled me out.
The building of our character and our family's dysfunction are horribly intertwined in our early formation. Success, no matter how poignant or expansive, means little without resolving childhood wounding.
It had been years since I had considered how much this is true. The days in prison left me a lot of time for reflection and contemplation of my family and early life.
Now, my brothers were waiting for my response and were very much afraid. They didn't recognize the arrogant child they had done away with.
If they had, they would have been terrified.
I had dreamed of this moment as a boy, sold into slavery. In prison, I had dreamed of what I would say and do if I ever had a chance to face them again. The speech I had rehearsed a thousand times seemed small to me now. I never thought I would give it while holding their lives in my hands. I was in a different place. They didn't know the agony of soul I had experienced in forgiving them years ago.
When I reveal my name to them, I wonder if they will expect the worst? If they are afraid of retribution, so be it. They had earned a bit of fear. My coat of many colors had acquired an ugly red stain at the end of my chapter with them. Let that horrible crimson and the pattern of blood splattered with lies fill their vision for the day.
I would try to bring healing, even here. I would feed them and bring their families into my house. I would hold the hands of my father again and feel the weight of his embrace.
I had found bread in the very dreams of God, and my word held the favor of the king of kings. My sons were favorites at court and doing well. Promoted from son to slave to criminal to national leader, I knew that God was very much in control. But after all these years, would Jacob know me? How would he remember the son who was lost? Could the relationship with my brothers know redemption beyond the writing off of a very bad debt? Did God provide for even this moment in His sequence of dreams and plans for me?
With that childhood vision, the sun and stars and moon bowed. The colors of my heart had taken on the favor of my Father and had replaced the coat I had lost so many years before. The series of events had led me into God's plan beyond my brothers' ill intent, to the place where I held provision for nations.
It was time.
I am Joseph, the one you sold into a life of slavery beyond appeal or reprieve so many years ago.
Things moved quickly after that.
We don't get to choose our family or early life. We don't get to choose the mistakes of our parents. We don't get to choose the abuse of siblings, or the things done that can never be undone. But if God orchestrates our context before the beginning of time, then His purpose can be seen even there. We don't meet Him in an empty room. We meet Him in this place, crafted by a divine dream to mold us according to His will.
It is a mystery that we don't understand these things until later in life, if we ever really do. But we do get to choose how we respond. We get to choose the shape and purpose of our heart. We do get to finally be free.
Family dysfunction is an opportunity for God to do amazing things. Not just for me personally, but for thousands upon thousands of generations to come. My family of origin is the first and last place I've learned to forgive. That lesson has led to the best dream of all.
"And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.
And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all His house and ruler over all the land of Egypt" (Genesis 45:5-8).