The story of Joseph (in the last part of Genesis) is both heartbreaking and inspiring. It is heartbreaking to read the things that happen to Joseph and heartbreaking to read of the depth of the famine that struck the lands in the story. It is inspiring to see the ways that Genesis describes Joseph’s response to the trials that came to him. There was a telling line, though, in Sunday’s readings. In Genesis 40:23-41:1, we read of how the cupbearer to the Pharaoh forgets about Joseph who correctly interpreted his dream while in prison. The passage says, “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” I can only imagine the struggle that Joseph felt knowing that he had been forgotten. I wonder about the markings that he started to make on the wall to pass the time and remember how long it had been. 41:1 says, “When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream.” It is only after this dream that the cupbearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh that there is someone who could help interpret. Did Joseph have another 730 marks on the wall in his cell by the time he was called for?
We all have ways of marking time. Sometimes they are positive markings like those in the picture for today – makings on a doorframe in our house measuring the growth of our children and seeing marks showing how far they have come (note the Hulk/Diamondback mark about halfway down in the picture – we had put that there to note when they would be tall enough to ride on some big roller coasters). But we also have ways that we mark the challenging times of our lives – people who talk of how many days they have been sober, how many days it has been since a diagnosis came, how many chemo treatments are left, and so forth.
As I have journeyed with many through trying times, I have marveled at the ways that people have endured through brutal treatments, sleepless nights, setbacks, and questioning when things would be able to move on. As I reflect upon this, I think of the words of James 5:10-11 – “As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Or the words of many places in the Psalms where the writers cry out to the Lord through the trials of life.
In writing this, I said a simple prayer for whoever may read this who may be in a time like that and are making those marks upon the wall, waiting for someone to “remember” them as the cupbearer finally did for Joseph.