Don’t Be Afraid

April 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

I wrote a poem. Once a year, I have the distinct pleasure of writing a response to a biblical text for Mercy Seat’s Easter vigil service. (I love writing assignments!) This year, my response is to Genesis 50:15-20 (Joseph Forgives his Brothers). If you haven’t read Genesis (in a while, or ever), I highly recommend this drama filled book. Seriously, it has everything. But the part that spoke to me the most was when Joseph weeps. Here’s my creative response to the text. Enjoy, and Happy Easter!

A harsh word
The smell of your grandmother’s perfume
Seeing a photo of your old love with another
Hearing your friend say I love you
A hug from a child
It’s moments like these when the salt-water
springs forth from your tear ducts
and makes your throat constrict.
Otherwise, known as crying.

We don’t cry because we are sad
We cry because the unexpected happens
When our world is a little jostled.

The bronzed bare-chested
Donny Osmond
singing catchy show tunes
of life in Egypt
–that Andrew Lloyd Webber made so famous —
only carries us to the reunion
of Joseph and his brothers
And leaves us thinking happily
of Jacob growing old with his sons.

But the story doesn’t end there.
Joseph’s entire extended family
lives in Egypt for another 17 years
not in famine, but in plenty
watching babies being born, grow and marry
perhaps playing board games
together on Sunday nights
After all this
I doubt Joseph expects more deceit.

But there it comes
His father’s body barely
cold in the ground
When he hears the pitiful lie
And when he witnesses his brothers
throw themselves at his feet
Joseph responds with weeping.
He weeps because he hears the fear in their voices.
A fear he didn’t imagine still existed
after all this time.
And so each tear, as it runs down his cheek
and splashes the hard red earth, is saying:
Don’t you know that I love you?
Don’t you know that I’ve already forgiven you?

There’s another family
This one all daughters dressed in denim
When the little blonde girls grew into adults
— but didn’t outgrow their love for denim —
they invited their younger sister
Not to the fields, but to a day of shopping
And there at the Caribou Coffee
in the middle of the Ridgedale mall
Is where they staged an intervention
To tell their sister she was about to make
The biggest mistake of her life.

And so when they turned out to be right
two years later
She couldn’t bear to tell them because she was afraid
of what they might think
or what they might say
And when she couldn’t keep it in any longer
she trembled with fear when she told them.
“Just say it.
Just say, I told you so.”
But that evening at the kitchen table
over bowls of chili growing cold
they didn’t say anything
They just wept and embraced her.

Joseph dries his eyes and tells his brothers: Listen, don’t be afraid. For I know you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.
On the third day, when the anxious women went to the tomb
and are frightened by the man in white, he tells them: Don’t be afraid. Remember, Christ has risen.



§ One Response to Don’t Be Afraid

  • Mark Stenberg says:

    Thanks so very much, Ruth. So vivid and so moving. You and your mad writing skills are such a gift to us all. The Lord is risen!

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