The week of Christmas and I am spending more days with Joseph. The companion I seek when I am by myself, walking the dog or making the bed or wiping down a counter. The person I am asking God to help me understand–and he is different than anyone I’ve ever wanted to know.
When Father Chi invited me to spend a week with Mary, and then another, it was easy. She was nurturing and warm. We walked so close our shoulders bumped–and I could feel her hip against mine as we sat. She would turn to me and offer conversation, an observation and a smile. She let me hear her prayers, her dreams and fears. She showed me surrender and strength and faith and love. She was the older sister I never had.
But Joseph is different. And I am drawn to his quietness. I have been wanting to hear him speak, but he says more with his actions than with his words. But even those actions are ones that I undervalued at first–not recognizing the impact of quiet humbleness and the strength of obedience and the power in loving without drawing attention to oneself.
I have lived my life wanting to be seen and noticed, celebrated and praised. Long ago, I decided that validation from other people equaled my personal worth–and love. And Joseph isn’t like that, which both perplexes and attracts me. In fact, when I am with him, he barely acknowledges me at all.
Father Chi, the Jesuit priest with whom I meet on Zoom each week, invites me to notice Joseph. “Spend time with Joseph. He is a largely silent figure in the Scriptures. Let him speak.” And so, in imaginative prayer with God, I have been following Joseph. And I have been listening. And what I’ve learned? His actions speak louder than any words.
I watched him as he awoke from the dream from the angel, and his immediate trust and act of obedience in marrying Mary. I watched him not let the threat of the community’s judgment and scorn deter him from trusting in the Lord. I watched him on the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem, leading Mary on the laborious three days trek. I watched him as he went from house to house, inquiring about a place for Mary to rest. I watched him by Mary’s side in labor. I watched him hold her hand. I watched him help her clean and then hold the Son of God born as a human baby. I watched him fill with wonder at all the things he did not understand.
I watched him build a bed for Jesus when they went back home, eager to provide a home, with food and with shelter for his family. I watched him eat meals and pray to God and rise each day knowing he was loved, chosen to be the man–frail and imperfect–to parent, the best way any human could, the Son of God. I watched him go to work each day with dedication and commitment. I watched the way Mary felt safe in his presence. I watched his quiet gentleness and strength as he spoke to Jesus, and I saw Jesus’s delight in being near him, and the respect Jesus had for him as Joseph spoke to him and ate with him and walked with him and taught him everything he ever knew.
He did not call attention to himself. He did not seek acclaim. There was so much he did not know or understand–so many reasons for him to feel unqualified and insecure and unprepared and ill-equipped to do what God invited him to do. And yet he chose to love his God. And he chose to trust in him. And he chose to be faithful even when his parenting God as a human made no sense. And he chose to believe God was good and would fulfill every promise. And he chose to make one decision after another to live like he believed it.
I am drawn to Joseph for his complete surrender, over and over, to God’s strength and goodness. I am drawn to his obedience. I am drawn to his quietness, his selflessness, his confidence in being loved. I am drawn to his way of living without needing to be in the limelight. I am drawn to his daily choice of living in the freedom of God’s mystery–of facing each day with resolve and trust that everything, with God, is always okay.
God is using other people to teach me, guide me, invite me into deeper trust and love for him. And right now, in Joseph, God is rescuing me again. In Joseph, I am learning how to follow God without needing anyone else’s validation. I am learning how to love in the quiet. I am learning how to accept trials as life and look to God for hope and navigation. I am learning how to be okay with being me, full of imperfections and problems. I am learning how to live a life that gives God glory and doesn’t seek it for myself.
For the Loop Poetry Project this week, consider pondering, right now, what you are learning. About God. About yourself. About the world. About who you really are.
Who is teaching this to you? What struggles are you facing as you let go of the false things you had believed and reach for something true and new?
Share your poem here, as a comment and/or with the lovely women in the Loop Poetry Project community. Join by clicking here. I look forward to reading your poems!
Merry Christmas, dear friends. May you hear and receive God’s whispers of hope and love and joy–for you, and for all that He is, and for all the good that He is going to do.
With love and hope,
The walk through desert
was many miles,
each step a day,
and my legs ached
from the weight
of my body,
all the dreams of you
I could see and touch
(if only in my
you were real to
me, a child to father
before I was a father,
and I had to trust
what I knew but did
not understand: you
were carrying me
even now my child
who loved, so loved,