There’s a painting in the attic…
An expensive portrait of my first marriage. It once hung proudly in the gallery of my mind. A mixture of all I’ve ever wanted, as well as a vision of what misstructured happiness looks like. As time went on, the immensely dark tones took over, and it became too heavy to keep a stationary existence within my heart.
After almost 10 years hidden, God was ready to put it back out on display. It was time to clear away the cobwebs and dust which had collected. His grace was taking over, and a new vision was being set in place.
It was a typical day of running the same stay at home mom marathon. Naptime gives my brain time to contemplate and staggers my pace with a long to-do list that seems to never get done. On this particular day, I received a phone call.
I watched as the lit-up screen flashed an unknown number, and I felt entitled to send this particular call to voicemail. It was the same call I declined a year ago. You see, I didn't think I owed my ex-husband the pleasure, answering and responding to a character reference for a job I knew he had always dreamed of landing.
Six months prior to the first missed call, I received a text from him. It was formal, as if he were addressing someone he had never met. His poised, carefully chosen words and questions sent me back to the unhealthy ways of unwanted insecurities. I never responded and decided opening back up that line of communication wasn’t in my best interest.
Bitterness has been my scapegoat for years. Pride and anger quickly began to cloud my thinking. I ran straight to my husband in tears of desperation with the hopes he would comfort my resentment. I can put up a good fight in my mind...my imaginary punch of a comeback. After all, I had the right. After all, he left me. After all, he had chosen someone else.
But God was hanging a new painting in the hallway with the gospel smeared all over the abstract predicament I was in. With each brushstroke, I envisioned His mercy creating a whitewash over the madness of my ex-husband’s mistakes. The painting’s vision may not be clear to me, but the gallery on display was for God's purpose only.
Oddly enough, the Lord shifted my undivided attention to Genesis 37; the story of Joseph and his jealous brothers. If there was ever a parable to guide Christians on the path to true forgiveness, this is one of the best!
If you aren't familiar with the story, Joseph is the son of Israel, and he is highly favored by his father. His father gifted him with a beautiful coat, which set in motion the beginning of deceitful hate by his brothers. They sulked in the pain of never being good enough. One night, Joseph came to confront them about a dream he had concerning his future. In this dream, Joseph described in detail that one day they will bow before him. The brothers, knowing he had the upper hand in their family, became flushed with anger. They couldn't fathom the idea he would one day continue this charade of favoritism.
Together, they constructed a plan to trick him into wandering outside the boundaries of their field jurisdiction. Israel sent Joseph out to check on his brothers and the flocks near Shechem. But when he arrived and could not find them, a man informed him that they had traveled to Dothan. As Joseph approached his brothers, confused, and knowing something didn’t seem quite right about their extended journey, there was already a plot against him in place. Immediately after he arrived, they let out what they had held in for so long.
“When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped off the beloved robe. Then they took him and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty and without water.” Genesis 37:23-24
Their original plan was to kill him, but as they sat and feasted together, rejoicing in the aftertaste of their envious scheme, they quickly realized they would gain nothing for the kill. They envisioned a plan to sell him into slavery which would offer less cleanup for the unthinkable act they had just committed. When Midianite traders passed by, the brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him away for twenty pieces of silver.
Soon after, he was sold in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. The Lord made everything he did successful, and Joseph became his master’s personal attendant.
There are so many intricate details from this point forward. Due to the continuous destruction led by others, Joseph was thrown into prison after being wrongfully accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
“But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor with the prison warden…The warden did not bother with anything under Joseph’s authority because the Lord was with him, and the Lord made everything that he did successful.” Genesis 39:21-23
Joseph was eventually exonerated by providing a clear vision and answers to the haunting dreams that Pharaoh kept having. This power of understanding was strictly a gift and blessing from God. Amazed, Pharaoh assigned him as keeper of the land in Egypt.
This is where my story begins to align with the continuous forgiveness Joseph had to practice throughout his lifetime.
Full circle in 3…2…1..Due to a famine in Canaan, Joseph’s brothers were forced to journey to Egypt to buy grain. So much time had passed that, when face to face with their brother again, they didn’t even recognize him. As the Lord would have it, a turn of events led to a total repentance of their wrong doing towards their brother. Joseph, tearful, reveals his identity to his brothers. Their homecoming of togetherness is a victory of forgiveness orchestrated strictly by a faithful heart and the grace of our heavenly Father.
The first year of going through divorce, I questioned if I would ever recover from the piercing pain of living through some of the worst heartache. During these single years, the Lord took my hand and guided me on a new path towards total dependence on Him. He opened my eyes to a long list of sin on my end, which shifted my undivided attention to this truth a wise counselor told me at the time…sin is a sin, the only distinction is the consequences that differentiate the acts of the fallen.
Over time, the proximity of my relationship with Christ shifted my perspective.
So, this time I couldn’t ignore the phone call. The grieving period had expired. I had to mirror Joseph, swallow my pride, and pray. Ten years later, I never imagined the Lord would move my heart to face the fear of speaking aloud good characteristics I knew to be true about my ex-husband. After I ended the call, my whole being felt swaddled in the realization that God was gifting him another chance at his dream.
I now see the painting in a different light. The vision of its purpose transformed and educated my way of thinking. If I expect people to love and forgive my sinful nature, then I have to do the same for my enemies.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson so wisely said, “Every artist was first an amateur.”
Praise God His mercy covers ALL our sin. Whether you are the accused or innocent bystander in a situation, Christ will redeem, restore, and renew what was once broken. We must forgive the unthinkable because He died for it, and His grace reigns superior over our mistakes.
Now that’s a picture worth a thousand words.