The gift of confusion
Just consider something for a moment…
You are engaged. You probably shouldn’t be engaged, because you barely know your fiance. One day she comes to you, and nervously says…
“yeah, so, I need to talk to you.”
You can hear the tone of voice can’t you? You know what it feels like when someone you care about comes to you, and says these words, with this cadence. It’s not good. Do you feel the pit in your stomach?
“So, here’s the thing, I am pregnant.”
The moment those words leave her mouth, a whirlwind of emotions attack your senses. Anger, fear, frustration, confusion, pain. You name it, you are feeling it. How could she… what did she… who is the…?
Before you can muster a word, she jumps back in with the only words that could make you feel worse about an already awful situation.
“But don’t worry, God came to me in a dream and told me the baby is His. God is the father, and the baby, is the savior of the world.”
Just sit there for a moment. Close your eyes, try to imagine the gamete of emotions running through your heart and mind. I will give you a moment…
If you know the Christmas story at all, you know I am telling the story of Christmas through the lens of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Of all the people in the first advent narrative, Joseph’s role was the strangest. And for him, this actual interaction, was only the beginning.
If you know the story, what happens next is pretty cool… I will let the Bible tell it, from Matthew chapter 1
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
I gotta get right to the point, or this will be a really long blog post. So here are the facts related to this situation…
- In the ancient near east, if a woman commits adultery, the going punishment was death by stoning… this would have been a perfectly logical outcome from this situation.
- Any man, in this context would have felt justified, even righteous in ensuring this punishment was administered
- The text above clearly separates the interaction between Mary and Joseph and the interaction between Joseph and the angel. We have no idea how long, but it was long enough for him to consider the situation and make some decisions.
- Prior to the angel coming to Joseph, he had already decided to show Mary an epic amount of mercy. (Go back and read it again)
- The angel shows up and clarifies things, and Joseph is rewarded for his faithfulness.
So, I don’t know about you, but a closer look at this story creates all kinds of questions for me… for example…
Why the HELL didn’t God just tell Mary and Joseph about her pregnancy at the same time? (Sorry, I was gonna edit that, but it just felt like the right word given the situation).
How in the world did Joseph have the character to choose kindness in the face of the most demoralizing violation a man in the ancient near east could ever experience?
This, is what I want to hone in on…
What was God doing in the life of Joseph between the moment when Mary TOLD HIM, to the moment the angel clarified things?
We don’t know how long it was. It could have been 5 minutes, or 5 weeks. Regardless of the time, one thing I am sure of… it was the longest, and hardest season of Joseph’s life.
Do I kill her? Do I forgive her? Do I still marry her? Do I shame her? Do I just walk away? Is there anything I am responsible to do in this situation?
All really good questions right?
It is spaces like these, that God’s shaping hands are most potent. It is seasons like these, when we are at the end of our rope, unsure about how to move forward, and fairly convinced that no matter what happens, our lives will never be the same, that God’s transformational grace is at it’s best.
My wife, Anne Marie, has lived in this kind of space for the the entirety of 2016. For a number of different reasons. She has experienced a sense of rejection like no human ever should, then slivers of hope followed my more heart ache. She has felt alone, misunderstood, and cast aside. She has spent most of the year entirely confused. Her confusion led to anger, and her anger to a greater sense of her own weakness, providing her with a choice. She could either let pride take over and drive a wedge between her and her Savior, or embrace the confusion, and be driven to dependency, trusting that He would reveal His purpose for her, in His timing. Which ultimately leads to a depth of intimacy with God most can only dream of experiencing.
She chose dependency at every turn. And the result? All her circumstances are easy now? Not even close. No, it hasn’t gotten easier, but it has produced the greatest season of growth she has ever experienced, and I have been lucky to have a front row seat.
The Apostle Paul says it like this…
“When I am weak, THEN… I am strong.” Not because I am strong, but because embracing my weakness allows the power of God to flow freely.
It is when we are lost, hopeless and CONFUSED, that we are most primed to be conformed to the image of Jesus. It is when we are utterly aware of our painfully glaring weakness that the shaping hand of the creator can do His finest work.
When we are hurting, beaten and bruised.
Clueless, tired and empty.
A proper posture before our gracious God allows moments of confusion and pain to produce clarity and healing. Why? Because they force us to our knees in total dependency on the one who holds it all together. Nothing happens outside of His loving gaze.
When we are at our lowest, this is when His grace is at it’s finest.
Tapping into that reality is as simple as throwing our hands up, and saying… I can’t do it on my own.
I am convinced it was Joseph’s willingness to embrace the gift of confusion, and step into the unknown, that God chose him to be the father of the Messiah.
What incredible realities might you be missing out on because you are afraid to admit you don’t and can’t have everything figured out… under control.
We don’t change when life is easy, we change when life pushes us to the end of ourselves, and we have no other option but to embrace the madness of confusion, and rest in the process God has for us.
It is in this context that confusion becomes a powerful, beautiful, even transformational gift.