Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Loosing (Emotional) Control - Genesis 45:1

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.”  So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.

This 45th chapter of Genesis starts with the word “Then” – a word that usually signifies that “after something was said or done, ‘then’ something else ensues” and in this case what follows is that “Then Joseph could not control himself”.  But what happened just moments earlier that caused him to lose control?  For that, and remember that the original account of Genesis was not neatly written in verses and chapters, we need to go back to the last verse of chapter 44, verse 34.  There we see Joseph’s brother Judah making his closing argument to Joseph as he appeals for Joseph not to hold on to his youngest brother Benjamin because they were caught (actually framed) for stealing Joseph’s personal cup.  Here is the verse: “For how shall I (Judah) go up to my father (Jacob) if the lad (Benjamin) is not with me, lest I see the evil that would overtake my father?”

The thought of his father suffering in any way, especially by something he demanded, was enough to cause Joseph to lose control of himself.  How great must his love for his father have been?  I am reminded of the various times in my life that I caused my own dad to suffer.  In particular, I must admit that I am sometimes still bothered by the fact that I agreed to allow my father to be “let go” on his last day rather than try to keep him alive for a while longer, even though the doctors did it with the least pain possible they believed he would have to endure.  No matter what the relationship has been like or the experiences that either or both have experienced in life alone, or between them, there is always a strong bond between a father and a son.  And certainly Joseph was feeling that union’s full affect at this very moment.

There are various ways to lose control of one’s self.  Hollywood has made numerous movies about various people going “amok” and “snapping” and creating incredible havoc as they do so.  That is not what Joseph exhibited.  What Joseph did demonstrated a ‘loss of control’ that was internal, and yes emotional, but not such that it would strike out and hurt others.  It was his pain and hurt that had to surface and be dealt with.  There was no intention to get revenge or mete out injury and agony on others.

Have you ever lost control?  If so, how?  Was your hurt dealt with or did you exact more on others?

This one-verse passage ends by telling us that everyone was asked to leave the room except his brothers.  This was a family matter.  There was no need for anyone else to be there.  What a lesson for us as we deal with emotional family issues.  I am astounded each time I see family members (usually husband and wife and sometimes parent and child) battle it out on social media by hanging out the family laundry on their pages and posts.  Worse still is to see these people let it all hang out (sometimes literally) in public on shows like Gerry Springer that go nationwide and beyond, and often for money, at that.

And then of course there are situations among Christian brothers and sisters in a local church or in a denomination, or even between denominations that are made public when in fact they should not be.  Every effort should be made to deal with most of these issues internally and privately, and if necessary with the help of a professional Christian mediator.

Do not get me wrong, I believe there are times and issues where we do indeed need to get the message out beyond our own family, be it our physical or church family.  Spousal and child abuse, child pornography, criminal activity and the like come to mind.  But for the most part, many have gone far too public with their openness.  And as a result, we walk into more separations and divorces and failings out where children or parents do not try to speak to each other until they see them at their funeral and then it is too late.   Or churches split.  I’m not suggesting at all that we keep it all a secret, sweep it under the carpet, and ‘do nothing about the situation’.   Not at all.  We need to take very active and constructive steps to resolve the issues and the relationships.

Joseph did just that and the last phrase of the verse tells us of his intention that is implemented in the verses that follow.  He wanted to make “himself known to his brothers”.  We need to know when things have gone far enough.  We need to known when God expects us to take healing action.  And then we need to act.   When a need arises for such action comes into our lives, may God help us all do just that as we deal with family situations or other issues of similar consequences among our friends or our colleagues or our fellow congregants in the places we worship.

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