Who decided that I was qualified to be in charge of the language learning of a bunch of elementary schoolers? Or that I could come in and run communications efforts with relative autonomy?
Whoever it was, I’m sure they have greater faith in my abilities than I do at times. I wonder if Joseph felt the same way when Pharaoh put Egypt at his feet.
Imagine, spending a few years in prison, tucked away from the rest of the world, when suddenly you are summoned to serve the most powerful man around. Hours later, you find yourself in charge of an entire country. Talk about crippling responsibility.
In a way, my emergence from college into my internship seems a bit similar. Not to compare college to a prison sentence, but it’s a world unto itself that you must leave for the harsh daylight of the working world and a rapid transition into real responsibility. Sure, you accumulate experiences that do a lot to prepare you along the way, just as Joseph earned leadership under the prison warden, but it’s not real until it’s real.
I worked with kids during college. I led a classroom of 12 on my own, but it’s nothing like what I’m doing now. Then, I was managing behavior, leading games and bible study. Now, I’m the one person responsible to bring dozens of little minds to learn Spanish.
I worked on the campus newspaper in college, but there was relatively little at stake in my work, and I never did it alone. Now, I’m in charge of the school’s publication to go out as part of the end-of-year fundraising campaign. There is a lot more riding on my doing this job well.
Just this week I was able to interact with some parents of my students, and I found myself suddenly insecure. These people, who care deeply about the education of their children, are placing them in my hands.
I look around me and wonder at times, “Do they realize I’m an intern?”
I enjoy the business and the responsibility, don’t get me wrong. It’s a motivator for me to do a job well when I know someone is counting on me. But there are moments when I long for the simplicity of being a follower, having a simple task handed to me. I’m sure the Joseph of Genesis 41 could relate; the 30-year-old who was plucked from obscurity to become the leader of one of the world’s most powerful nations, and handed a wife and family to care for to boot had to have moments of doubt.
But Genesis 41:50-52 show that Joseph also had a keen sense of the true balance of power. I find Joseph’s naming of his children fascinating – both names given show his thankfulness to God for his prosperity and success, but they also give a window into the man’s mind. He was still, in a way, the boy who was despised by his brothers and ripped from his home. This place he ruled was his “place of suffering.” Although he is powerful and rich, he hasn’t forgotten his story and who is authoring it, who truly holds the power and the riches.
How often do I forget that my successes, my abilities are given by God’s grace? I, too, easily assume sole responsibility for the realms under my charge. No wonder I feel inadequate – I am. Yes, I have worked to sharpen certain skills. Yes, I studied hard to know what I know. Yes, I showed merit in my application. But ultimately, everything good I possess is a gift.
Joseph’s awareness of his own smallness meant that he could perform his job well, without his pride or greed getting in the way. The text at this point doesn’t recount any of his work besides that laid out for him in the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream. No dwelling on his riches, though we are told he had them. No selfish wielding of his power, though we know he held it.
His awareness of his service of something bigger than himself also meant that he could work for the good of the nation that represented personal betrayal. He did his work as to the Lord, and a nation was saved through his diligence.
How free would I be if I could really see my own smallness. I believe I feel pressure and self-doubt because I hold myself in too high esteem. The Lord has desired these children to be taught Spanish and he has placed me here to do that. I am not ultimately responsible for the forming of their minds, but it is the power of God in me that will do it. Who am I to claim such responsibility alone?
And how free would I be if I could really settle into the Lord’s call on me to be in this place, for however long it may be. I find myself sometimes wishing for the familiarities of home and not earnestly yearning for the prosperity of my “Egypt.” But the Lord wants to work here, and he has brought me along to do it.
So why do I doubt? The Lord is the one at work, and the Lord has chosen to use me in that work. If Joseph’s faithfulness enabled him to save an entire nation from starvation, surely the Lord will help me to teach un poco de español.
image: freeimages/elias minasi