“What will you do to make things right?” That’s a phrase we often repeat to my two elementary-aged children, whether it concerns a problem between them, within our family, or among their friends and peers. More often than not, they respond to the question with blank stares and long periods of silence before blaming others. Sometimes they surprise me with a solution for what has gone wrong, and sometimes they lack the vocabulary for a simple and necessary, “I’m sorry.” I do my best to model reconciliation within our home, but between their social-emotional development and their limited life experiences, they still need reminders of what to say.
Are my children’s struggles to make things right really that different from Joseph’s brothers’ struggles to reconcile with the one they despised, betrayed, and discarded because they felt wronged by their father? After Jacob’s death, they approach Joseph with a set of operating instructions from their father, words to say in order to make things right again.
All the years, tears, and fears that have created the chasm between them present Joseph—now in a position of power and authority—an opportunity to reciprocate the wrongs committed against him by his siblings. Though they are terrified of judgment and punishment, Joseph disarms his brothers with a simple Do not be afraid (v. 19). What a gift.
I imagine all their concerns about this impending confrontation with Joseph dissipating as they experience forgiveness and compassion. I also picture their understanding of God broadening to include the view of God’s grace acting and loving in ways that defy expectations.
Who have I upset or hurt? How could I make things right with them again? Who has upset or hurt me? How could I let go of that pain and forgive them?
Gracious and patient God, send your peace to those whose suffering I caused. Send me mercy and forgiveness for those who caused me to suffer. Amen.