Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Pilgrim

It is a strange journey he has made. Geographically, he travelled to a far country, but that was only the beginning of his extraordinary path, the prelude for all that was to follow. Socially, he has occupied almost every position it is possible for a man of his age and time to experience: favoured son, hated brother, slave, honoured servant, prisoner, and now one of the mighty in the land. In the process his soul has been torn and stretched and kneaded to a new design, a contour that has no recognisance in the age in which he lives. Today, informed by a greater revelation, we acknowledge with awe that it is the shape of a cross.

For this is the journey that really matters, the pilgrim path that is hidden behind the outward patterns of his life, just as the gold or silver to be refined is hidden within the furnace, a transformative miracle too bright for our eyes to gaze on. And it has taken many years, and many tears that were seen only by God, in the darkness of the pit, in the darkness of the prison cell, in the darkness of the nights when memory pierced like a sharpened spear and the stars hung in their places like a myriad unshed tears. He yearned for so much, for that innocent time when he never dreamed of betrayal by his own flesh and blood, for the rain-nourished pastures of Palestine, so different from these Egyptian fields, for the opportunity to watch his little brother grow up. Most of all, he missed his Father, and the special bond of love they shared.

He had learned to hide his wounded heart very quickly. Slave traders care nothing for the feelings of their merchandise, only that they should refrain from any sulkiness that might lower their price. But inwardly he seethed. How could his brothers do this to him? In his darker moments he would plot fantasies of exquisite revenge, imagining what he could do if they were ever in his power.

And now, beyond the wildest reach of his imagination, it had actually happened. For a moment he felt the choking flame of rage rise up inside him, but there was no fuel left in his heart for it to feed on. He had changed. Through all these years, through the heights and depths of his fortunes, he had set his heart to seek God with fervour and conviction and hold steadily to his charted course despite the injustices and setbacks. And this resolute pursuit of God had shaped and transmuted his heart. How could he hold his resentment against his brothers when God had turned it all to a good beyond his wildest dreams? Yes dreams, those dreams, dreams of greatness and power over all his family. How he had gleefully fed his ego on them so many years ago! Yet now, in this moment when long-past dreams merged into the common day, there was no self-aggregation, only awe that he had lived to inhabit such a Holy Place. And he could look upon his brothers faces without anger and resentment, but marvel instead that his awkward, resolute steps through the long desert years had led him to the place of absolute forgiveness.

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