This morning, we were getting back into the swing of things of doing school in the morning for my 4 year old son. I’d made bean and cheese tacos for breakfast, beautiful music was playing softly in the background, that sweet coffee aroma filled the house, and the sunlight was shining through the gray clouds, gently lighting up our sun room/classroom area. It felt like the perfect Spring morning.
We love Spring. We love celebrating the Jewish holiday, Purim, where it is remembered how one brave woman, a Jewish girl who became the Persian Queen Esther, saved all the Jews in Persia. We love how our crazy city celebrates St. Patrick’s day by dumping gallons of green dye into our river…
But this morning, my son was not ready to come back from break. He didn’t want to practice writing, and he became frustrated with himself when he would try to write with a dry erase marker and mess up because it was writing “too fat.” He eventually stopped, folded his arms, made the cutest face of disgust and anger & decided to sulk. Ironically, he’d stopped in frustration when he only had one last letter to write as part of his practice words.
Aren’t we all a little (or a lot) just like that?
We give up in frustration, or become easily angry when something minor goes wrong and decide to sulk for the rest of the time. Even while enjoying a perfect serene morning, one little frustration can pollute our entire outlook and attitude in life.
After I motivated him to finish that one last letter, I decided to impose a break so that we could learn about Joseph.
Dear Joseph. That sweet boy who bragged too much, he was the 2nd youngest child, with 10 older brothers – all of whom had a mother whom their father loved less than his own. He was the special & favored child, along with his younger sibling, because they were born from the wife Jacob really desired and loved. To make matters worse, his father decided to give him a special coat – a brightly colored symbol of how much more he loved Joseph than the rest of his children.
His brothers despised him because of this, and hearing him brag about the dreams God was giving him sent them over the edge – they plotted to kill him and make it look like an accident. They threw him into a well, decided to say an animal had killed him, and ended up selling their brother into Egyptian slavery.
While I was relaying these events to my son I asked him if he thought Joseph had a bad attitude at what God had allowed to happen to him, and he said yes. How could Joseph not? This young, coddled boy, never used to being without, the favored child of his father, suddenly betrayed so abruptly that he found himself at the bottom of the totem pole in the slave trade. He’d more than likely never worked a day of hard labor in his life, and now he would be solely valued based on his ability to work & labor for the rest of his life.
But Joseph… that sweet young man, didn’t. He didn’t let his circumstances dictate his choice of how he would respond. He decided to become the best slave. He was so faithful, so trustworthy, and such a dedicated worker, that his owner, Captain of the guard Potiphar, decided to make him preside over everything he owned!
Then enter Potiphar’s wife. It was the classic set-up of the bored housewife and the hired hand. Joseph had grown up to be “handsome & built,” he was not only intelligent and good-looking, he was now rough and masculine. She wanted him to be with her – but he would never be with a married woman, let alone the wife of the very man who trusted him with everything he had. I admire Joseph so much, he could have easily rationalized that having his master’s wife on the side would’ve made up for the injustice of what had happened to him in life.
But he didn’t.
He chose to have integrity, and he paid dearly for it. She accused him of harming her (child’s version – you know she accused him of false-rape), and Joseph lost everything he had built for himself – his reputation, work ethic, the trust of Potiphar, and he was thrown into jail as a prisoner who had raped an official’s wife.
He went from being a treasured & pampered son, to a slave whose only value was based on what he could do, to a prisoner and forever remembered sex offender. I explained to my son how even when we do the right thing, we can still be punished and have to suffer because of it. But did being a prisoner and convicted rapist let Joseph give in to having a bad attitude?
No. Joseph rose up the ranks within the prison to become the Prison Guard. He went from being held behind the bars to being the man who held the keys to the others’ freedom. His attitude, his integrity and trust in God gave him power to rise above his circumstances. Joseph still chose to keep a good attitude, and it showed in the way people reacted to him.
I didn’t go on, even though Joseph’s whole story is truly inspiring, this 5 minute break was enough to shift my son’s thinking – he was genuinely in awe of Joseph and his attitude. My son’s entire outlook changed, we prayed and he went over to his little brother and hugged him. And I read him this last verse:
“Even if you should suffer for what is right,
you are blessed.
‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.'”
1 Peter 3:14