God is the very best editor
Are you trying to tell God how to edit your life story?
Please let me explain.
I’ve worked at the Tribune for 36 years and I know about the writing and editing process. Reporters (and editors) write stories, then an editor goes through those articles.
Editors are important. They can catch errors in stories, help them be worded more clearly and, if need be, reorganized in a way that makes them more readable.
Years ago, I was editing a young student’s story. She was watching me edit and I was trying to be gentle, but she didn’t take the process as well as I’d hoped.
“I wrote it that way for a reason,” she said rather curtly.
The comment astounded me, partly because if I’d said that to a couple of my previous editors — they would have blown up.
We kept working and made it through her story.
And, actually, I haven’t thought about that for a while.
Well, at least not until recently, when I began to wonder if we don’t do the same thing with God.
We know how we want our life stories to go. We plan to grow up, get an education and a good job, marry, have children and then enjoy a great retirement.
But maybe life hasn’t turned out that way.
Maybe there are things we wish we could delete.
If they could cut some things out of their life stories, how many people could say they wouldn’t have:
*Gone through that terrible divorce.
*Had all those financial troubles.
*Contracted that horrible disease.
*Been in that accident.
If I’d had the chance to write my own life story, I wouldn’t have:
*Been picked on so much at school.
*Been a struggling single mom.
*Lost my parents when I was still in my 30s.
*And I certainly wouldn’t have become at 53-year-old widow when my husband died in 2013.
I wouldn’t have let any of those tough things happen.
And, honestly, I probably wouldn’t have been able to relate to anyone.
At least not anyone who’d ever felt rejected or suffered a loss.
You can gain a lot of insight and wisdom through suffering. The Scriptures say even Jesus learned through what he suffered.
And you gain empathy.
Different than its cousin sympathy, which means to feel compassion for someone, empathy means you’ve walked in that person’s shoes.
Who can relate to a combat veteran, or a parent who’s lost a child, or the victim of an assault — like someone else who’s been through the same thing?
I’m sure any of these people would have wished — at one time or another — they could have erased these things from their life stories.
There’s a man in the Bible who — at least when he was younger — probably wished his story could have been different, too.
That man is Joseph. The story of Joseph — found in the Old Testament—occurred a long time before Jesus was born.
Joseph’s story begins with a young man, who is his daddy’s favorite and whose brothers hate him. That hatred grows after Joseph talks about his dreams, which symbolically indicate they’ll bow down to him someday.
Joseph’s brothers plot to kill him, but then one of the siblings — Judah — suggests they just sell him instead. So they sell him as a slave.
Poor Joseph ends up in the house of an Egyptian man named Potiphar, where God grants the young man success. But when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him—and fails—she falsely accuses him of trying to attack her and Joseph goes to prison for a crime he never committed.
Joseph is there for a while — but then thinks he might have a chance at getting out after he correctly interprets an inmate’s dream.
He asks the inmate — set to go back into the Pharaoh’s service — to plead his case before the king and get him out of prison.
But the former inmate forgets and Joseph stays in prison for two more years until the Pharaoh has a couple of weird dreams. In one dream, seven skinny cows eat up seven fat cows. And in another dream, seven shriveled heads of grain eat up seven plump ones.
The Pharaoh is disturbed and that’s when the former inmate remembers Joseph’s ability to correctly interpret dreams.
After Joseph is brought out of prison (and cleaned up) he’s taken to the Pharaoh and makes sure to tell him that only God can reveal the dreams’ meaning.
To make a long story shorter, Joseph tells the Pharaoh that the dreams mean Egypt will have seven good years of crops, followed by seven years of famine. He advises they store grain from the good years so they’ll have it during the bad.
Pharaoh makes Joseph second in command and the young Hebrew embarks on the greatest, ancient-day grain storage project ever.
Joseph’s brothers eventually come from afar to get grain. They don’t recognize him, but he recognizes and basically tests them.
When Judah becomes willing to go to prison in place of his brother Benjamin—who is falsely accused of theft — Joseph realizes his siblings have changed a little bit.
In the end, the brothers worry if Joseph will retaliate against them for what they did.
That’s when a tender-hearted, God-fearing and insightful Joseph says this: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Joseph couldn’t have known when he was sold into slavery or sent to prison just how good his life would be later.
Or how God would use him to help save the nation of Egypt and his own family from starvation.
And remember that brother Judah?
Judah would become an ancestor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
How could Joseph have known that would happen?
Joseph couldn’t have known how his story would encourage future generations of people.
And we don’t know how our life stories may help people years down the road.
In the meantime, I find courage in something Christian author Jerry Sittser wrote in his book: “A Grace Disguised — How the Soul Grows Through Loss.”
He writes that: “The Joseph story helps us to see that our own tragedies can be a very bad chapter in a very good book.”
We don’t know what great chapters lie ahead. I’m continuing to hope for better ones and trusting in our God – the greatest writer and editor ever.
And I try to take a cue from Jesus — who in the Garden of Gethsemane — took his hands off the editing pen when he said: “Yet not my will, but your will be done.”
I’m sure the human part of Jesus didn’t want to suffer so horribly on the cross, but he let his Father do the editing.
And look what happened.
Jesus rose from the grave. Because of that our life stories get to continue in heaven, where there is no pain, suffering or tears.
Now I’d say that’s a great editing job.
Tammy Real-McKeighan is a reporter with the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.