A son tells this incident that his dad did on him. My dad calls me late one night. At that time of night I figure something might be wrong, so I pick up. Dad says, “I just wanted to tell you your phone was ringing.” He hangs up.
Another “funny” dad told this to his family: I had a dream last night that I was a muffler on a car and we kept driving and driving. When I woke up I was exhausted.
Aren’t dads just hilarious? I’ve always wondered how I went from a kid to a grown up to being a dad. I mean I know some of how it happened…. Maybe somewhere in that process men have a bolt or nut loosened a bit and things get a little funny upstairs. I don’t know.
But change is a’coming–or it’s already visited you.
I like the story about a grandmother and her young granddaughter whose face was sprinkled with freckles. They spend the day at the zoo. While there, they wait in line to get their cheeks painted by a local artist who was decorating them with tiger paws.
‘You’ve got so many freckles, there’s no place to paint!’ the rude boy in front of her said to her. Embarrassed, the little girl dropped her head. Grandmother knelt down next to her. ‘I love your freckles,’ she said. ‘Not me,’ the girl replied.
‘Well, when I was a little girl I always wanted freckles,’ she said, tracing her finger across the child’s cheek. ‘Freckles are beautiful!’ The girl looked up. ‘Really?’ ‘Of course,’ said the grandmother. ‘Why, just name me one thing that’s prettier than freckles.’
The little girl peered into her grandma’s smiling face. ‘Wrinkles,’ she answered softly.
How do we change from freckles to wrinkles well? Obviously we’re going to get wrinkles no matter what but the freckles the girl is referring to are good wrinkles, and not just gotten old and crabby wrinkles.
The thing about change is the better we are at knowing what we’re supposed to change into or how we are supposed to change, then the better we’ll be at making the change.
So many people fight the change they’re supposed to become. Kicking and clawing, trying to hold onto the past, to earlier thoughts of what made them happy, fulfilled, and satisfied. But things change.
Heck our brains change, our bodies change, our souls are supposed to change. We’re supposed to grow up. But what does it mean to grow up? What are good wrinkles?
We get good wrinkles when we go from a consumer to a producer. It means to go from being someone who receives to someone who distributes. You’re growing up when you’re someone who feeds others, no longer always needing to be fed. We see some of this going on in Joseph’s story.
The Joseph story has an amazing amount of ups and down, of transitions, of change. The prized son becomes the hated brother who sell him as a slave, who becomes the most important aide to an important man who is thrown into prison and forgotten but then rises to become second to Pharaoh, who saves his family and brings them all to him.
As we learned last week, Judah goes from hating his dad and his spoiled brother to loving his father and caring for/saving his entire family.
But there is a particular change that I want us to look at today. It’s the change that takes us from consumers to producers, from being fed to feeding.
The big moment in the story is Pharaoh’s dream. When Joseph is the only one who can interpret his dream Joseph is removed from prison and set over everyone other than Pharaoh.
What is the dream? It’s the dream of seven fat cows coming out of the Nile followed by seven starving cows eating the seven fat cows. Joseph told Pharaoh that seven plentiful years of harvest will be followed by seven years of harsh famine.
Joseph organized Egypt’s production of grain so that he stored twenty percent of what was produced in the good years and then had enough to be the breadbasket for the nations suffering during an oppressive famine. This was why Jacob and his large family had to journey to Egypt. The famine was so severe it was affecting their land as well.
Joseph became who one who fed Egypt, and Canaan, and all the people affected by the famine. He became the great producer, a great provider. He became like a father to those people.
That was great but here’s the thing. Being a provider is not exactly the same thing as being a producer. I don’t know about you but when we talk about dads being providers it always feels to me as if there is still some distance between dad and his family.
Dad works somewhere outside the home normally, is compensated with money for his time away, turns that money into a house, food, clothes, and then that’s it. He’s done his job.
Now in case you’re wondering if I’m being old-fashioned here talking in terms of dads, men, doing this, please don’t take me the wrong way. If we want to say the mom of the house is doing this, that’s fine. Whoever the “bread winner” is, the bread provider is, if that person believes she or he has done the job by working and turning that work into food and that’s all that’s necessary or important, that’s what I’m talking about, regardless of gender.
You are providing but you’re not feeding. Because, to put it simply, it isn’t about the food. It’s about you. When we grow into God’s shape for us we grow beyond merely working and providing. God wants us to be capable of feeding others.
And what does feeding others mean in this sense? Well, the classic example of course is a pregnant woman. She can’t help but feed her baby from her own body. And this feeding and growing requires changes in her and her body. Some she expects and some she doesn’t.
For the first seven or eight years of knowing Marit, I can completely and honestly say she could remember everything I said or did or she said or did or someone around us said or did. Her memory was incredible–perfect, which of course can be a great thing or at times not such a great thing, if you know what I mean.
But things change when babies comes. When your body gives itself over to feeding not just one child but three children, two at one time. And then you are the one who gets up and stays up with the children, and you get fewer hours of sleep than you used to get, which were fewer than regular mortals require anyway, things are bound to change
So for the last five or six years, Marit no longer has her perfect memory. But don’t worry she remembers plenty!
I tell you what though she would never in a million years want to get back her incredible memory if it cost her anything with her children.
Men often feel they need to be self-reliant. They’re sometimes focused on providing for their loved ones and hide their own emotions, or rather hide themselves. This behavior is reinforced everyday in the stereotype of the heroic male, so often represented in popular culture. Fearless, resourceful, stoic and usually facing adversity alone, these characters may make great
adventure heroes but they don’t make good fathers. They don’t have the capacity to share, to feed others.
Christian author and theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote, “Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretentions, our religions or lack of it, we are all vulnerable to the storms without and to the storms within.”
What he means is we aren’t as big and strong as we pretend we are. Storms can be our own physical limitations, our aging, sickness. Storms within can mean our restlessness, our anxiety, fears, and all the emotions that spin around inside.
I gotta be honest. I think a lot of people today are chock full of fear, fear of these storms in our lives. And it appears the only way our society deals with being afraid is by getting angry. It’s like we’re in revolt against how things are and how our society is. And for some reason we think getting angry about it is going to help things–which of course it doesn’t. Anger on top of fear only builds greater fear, which leads to greater anger that we’re now more afraid. And the cycle grows and deepens.
We just shut down, permitting only anger to speak and act. It’s sort of like we’re constantly boarded up against the storms we face, the truth we face inside and outside of ourselves, and we’re only letting anger do all the talking. That’s not good.
You see, we’re not really letting ourselves know what we’re feeling. We’ve become so doubtful of our ability to handle our own emotions and needs and truths. We’re no longer really present to ourselves. We’re not very good anymore at listening to our own souls, what’s going on inside of ourselves.
And if you can’t hear your own soul grumble its hunger then how can you feed it? I guarantee it’s hungrier for more than just anger. And if you can’t feed your own soul, how can you be someone who’s feeding someone else? It’s not possible.
You know what’s interesting about dads? What’s interesting about dads is how often they change when they go from being dad to being grandpa. The classic picture of dad is someone who as I’ve already described gives to his family by what we does at the office. The classic picture of the grandpa is someone who willingly makes physical contact with his grandchildren, sitting next to them in a chair or talking closely in their ear. What a difference!
That physical closeness becomes a spiritual closeness, a “feeding” for the grandchildren. It’s the same man, just some thirty years different, changed, grown.
Men, don’t be afraid to be physically close to your loved ones. Don’t wait until you’re a grandpa before you realize what you have in you is to be shared and is needed by your own children.
One day all the employees reached the office and they saw a notice on the door: Yesterday the person who has been hindering your growth in this company passed away. We invite you to join the funeral for this person.
At first, they were sad for their colleague’s death but after a while they started getting curious to know who hindered their growth and the company’s. When they got to the gym a line had already formed, and the excitement was palpable.
One by one the employees got closer to the coffin, and when they looked inside it they suddenly became speechless. After, they stood nearby, silent, stunned. Why? Because what was in the casket was a mirror. Everyone who looked in saw only themselves.
There was also a sign next to the mirror. It read: There is only one person who is capable to set limits to your growth: It’s you. You are the only person who can revolutionize your life.
At the end of Genesis, after Jacob’s death, Joseph’s brothers beg him to forgive them. Joseph weeps and says, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” He assures them that he will take care of them and their families.
Joseph, one of the most powerful men in Egypt, refuses to harm his brothers. The hurt they caused him was real. The evil they meant against him was real. But Joseph saw God’s greater plan at work throughout his life and he pronounces it in words that have survived some thirty-five hundreds years: What you meant for evil, God meant for good.
Joseph becomes the feeder, the defender, the blesser, the producer, the father, the lover of his family. What a change! What growth. What a story!