Scripture (Genesis 37: 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a)
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons,
for he was the child of his old age;
and he had made him a long tunic.
When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons,
they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.
One day, when his brothers had gone
to pasture their father's flocks at Shechem,
Israel said to Joseph,
"Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem.
Get ready; I will send you to them."
So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan.
They noticed him from a distance,
and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.
They said to one another: "Here comes that master dreamer!
Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here;
we could say that a wild beast devoured him.
We shall then see what comes of his dreams."
When Reuben heard this,
he tried to save him from their hands, saying,
"We must not take his life.
Instead of shedding blood," he continued,
"just throw him into that cistern there in the desert;
but do not kill him outright."
His purpose was to rescue him from their hands
and return him to his father.
So when Joseph came up to them,
they stripped him of the long tunic he had on;
then they took him and threw him into the cistern,
which was empty and dry.
They then sat down to their meal.
Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead,
their camels laden with gum, balm and resin
to be taken down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers:
"What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood?
Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites,
instead of doing away with him ourselves.
After all, he is our brother, our own flesh."
His brothers agreed.
They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.
I cannot read about Joseph and his brothers without thinking about my own brother. Eighteen months apart in age, I think it is safe to say that we both grew up feeling there was not enough distance between us. Despite being different in every conceivable way, we were constantly compared. This sparked a competitive war that still rages on. Just last week I was teasing my mom, telling her that my brother is clearly the favorite child. She had just driven two hours in a snow storm to help him with a project for one of his design courses at MIAD. I lamented over all of the ills I faced as the less loved child. Her response was simple. Just three words, “You never asked.” And that’s just it, I never did.
Of course, our parents treated us differently. They helped foster my gifts and talents just as they did his. That looked different because we are different. At the time that made me want to leave him in a cistern, shopping cart, hot car, anywhere I could really. Now instead of wanting to leave him abandoned at the wayside, I have great appreciation for the effort our parents put into raising us. Two children. Two hugely different parenting strategies. And yet as semi functional adults, my brother and I live our lives by the same set of morals and values. I think my parents can mark that down as a win.
Somewhere in our lives we are all the favorite child. Likewise, we play witness to the growth of other favorite children. For Israel, he clothed Joseph in the best tunic but then he sent him to work just as he did his other sons. I’m sure if we could have been there we would have seen the dreams of the other sons fostered as well. It all comes down to perspective. I’m realizing that is important to offer gratitude for both roles. For being supported and loved in unique ways. For being able to do the same for others. Turns out my brother and I are not so different. We have the same taste in beer, humor, and road trip snacks. Not a bad place to start. He is easily one of the most talented people I know, and his heart is bigger than the Grinch’s post-Christmas. He is a marvel and I love him immensely. That’s not something I say enough. I always try to show gratitude for the marvels that the Lord has made and I’m adding my brother to that list.
- Where in your life are you the favorite child?
- How can you help foster growth in the favorite children in your life?
- How have family relationships impacted your faith?
These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
It is easy to give way to our selfish human nature and wish ill on those who appear to be the favorite child whether they are our sibling or the subject of a coveted Instagram page. Next time you are taken hold by jealousy, offer up a prayer for that person instead and then offer one up for yourself.
Good and gracious God, please guide us as we discern our gifts and talents that you have clothed us in like Israel clothed Joseph in his tunic. Help us to see the beauty in these gifts as we dream and work in your name. Amen.
Maggie Russell is a super cool human, who has served as Program Coordinator at Inspirio for 4 years. Growing up in Freedom, WI she is now teaching in Tijuan, China.