Sojourn is a great word. It means to travel through a place, even live there temporarily, but not to make one's abode in that location. Throughout this season of Lent, I've been reflecting on sojourning, awaiting a future kingdom where moth & rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19; I've previously written about this concept here). Reading about Joseph's life, I've been struck by how God worked to bring about great good in a terrible situation, orchestrating His purposes when Joseph could not have possibly seen how good could come from being thrown in a pit by his brothers and sold into slavery.
Lent is a season Christians use to commemorate Christ's journey to Jerusalem to be sacrificed at the time of the Jewish Passover, remembering Christ's determination and sacrifice often by self-denial through fasting. Passover itself commemorates God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt, when the Angel of Death struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, but passed over the houses of the Israelites, who had marked their lintels and doorposts with blood from a lamb. So for the last three weeks of Lent before Easter, my brother and I decided to read through the narrative of Joseph (Genesis 37-50), and then the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 1-12).
I've been particularly struck by how bleak Joseph's story is. As a young man, he has prophetic dreams of greatness, which anger his older brothers. So a little while later, they sell him into slavery and tell their father he was mauled by a wild animal. Talk about sibling rivalry! Joseph gets carted off to Egypt (setting up the return to Israel, or Exodus), where things start to go well for him. He's a slave, but his master is the Captain of Pharaoh's Guard, and he puts Joseph in charge of his entire household. But then his wife tries to seduce Joseph, and when he refuses to sleep with her, she frames him for adultery and plays the race card to get him thrown into jail. But even in jail, Joseph's talents are recognised, and he is put in charge of the jail. Eventually, Joseph is released from jail, and raised to prominence as Pharaoh's second-in-command, tasked with preparing the entire land of Egypt with for an imminent famine. Finally, because of the severity of the famine, his family arrives in Egypt, and he is raised above his brothers and even his father.
Talk about ups and downs! Yet in all of it, Joseph patiently trusts in God's previous promise and waits on Him to fulfill it. And God faithfully acts to show Himself mighty, raising Joseph up in the midst of extreme opposition. From brothers to powerful military officials, no one is able to stand in the way of God's plan for Joseph. And Joseph neither sits on his hands and says "God will move when He will move," nor does he tire himself out with striving, holding a mantra of "God helps those who help themselves." He uses the abilities God has given him to benefit the people around him, and he waits on God to deliver him from bondage. (I think I'll have to expand this over Easter weekend, with Israel being delivered from slavery.)
For myself, I'm far from the home I long for - a city with foundations, that is, a heavenly one; and I want to bear in mind that I'm a sojourner in a foreign land. I'm also struggling with the as-yet unfulfilled desires God has placed on my heart; specifically, to teach Medieval Lit at the college level. But, like Joseph, I know that God has placed me where I am for a purpose, and that I am called to be faithful & fruitful here, not just long for a future imagined idyll. I've already seen God elevate me in areas where I feel inadequate, making me grade level chair and teacher of the year, so I trust Him to continue to faithfully provide where he leads me, even when I can't see how teaching elementary school today could lead to teaching Beowulf one day.
God grant me the mindset of a sojourner, not forgetting who I am or where I'm called to be, but working with all my heart where I've been placed for now.