The First Reading today often sends people to the image of Joseph and his wildly coloured coat. However, this is the dark side of that story of jealous siblings and a father who let them know that he loved his son Joseph best of all. When the brothers see Joseph approaching, they mocked him announcing that the dreamer was coming and they plotted as to how to kill him. Only Reuben protested and suggested that they throw him in a pit in the wilderness so that he might return and restore him to his father. Instead, they end up selling Joseph, trafficking him into slavery for twenty pieces of silver.
This is not a happy story yet but it will evolve into a beautiful ending that only God knows at the time. The quote at the end of today’s readings in the missal is fittingly from St. Patrick: I pray to God to give me perseverance and to deign that I be a faithful witness…to the end of my life for my God. Yes, I thought, this is a good prayer this day. I too would like to have perseverance and to be a faithful witness until the end of my life. This ended up being the theme of the day for me, and I wonder if I am a bit of a dreamer too.
My monthly visit with my social worker wandered in all sorts of directions as it can but the underlying emotion was peace which was much different than the month before. Despite being flat-on-my-back sick, I found rest for my soul. In those five days of illness, my spirit worked through a number of things. As I returned to the outside world, I had much on my mind and heart and God responded with potential plans. I shared those with my social worker. Two years ago today was when I had my portal vein embolization (PVE) under the determined care of a dedicated interventionist who promised me he would not give up on me and he kept his word. I am acutely aware of all I have been through and all that is yet to come. As the therapist and I danced from topic to topic, I could see the twinkle in his eye. I wondered what he was thinking but did not ask.
We talked about suffering and how I had said that I am well to someone recently who challenged me on my response after I had asked him how he was. He was well, ok. I laughed and asked him what he meant. He replied by asking me if I was really well. My honest answer was that I was well and not suffering as the Buddhists would say. I am sleeping well and I am not in physical pain. I am not anxious. Therefore I do not suffer right now. The social worker and I picked this apart even further because I worry this might change for me–that I will become anxious about certain events and people’s reactions and then I might suffer. How did Joseph cope in his cell for so many years, wondering what had become of his family, especially his beloved father? How will family and friends respond to me as I become sicker? How will I manage my boundaries about my needs? These are the potential hauntings that run through my mind as suffering spots.
Joseph had dreams to carry him through the challenges. I believe in dreams too. I pay attention to my sleeping dreams as I do not often remember them so when I do, I heed what they might mean. I had one recently where I was driving in the pitch dark, unable to see anything and the friend who was with me finally yelled stop! That dream came during my illness and I think the meaning was that I could no longer barrel wildly along without taking time to discern my direction. I was endangering myself and others by my recklessness.
I left the therapist’s office and ran some errands. As I parked the car, I finished listening to a new song by Mercy Me coming out later this month called Even If. This heart-wrenching song has the troubadour realizing that after singing to heal people, his world is broken. His faith is small and he is hanging on by a thread. Yet, his hope remains in God.
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
The song includes these lyrics a bit later:
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul
I have been there time and again on this crazy cancer adventure. It is well with my soul is one of my mantras. I love the honesty of this new song. I have placed myself in God’s hands and hoped in the Divine Mercy that I will find there. I remember being on the table during the PVE, barely hanging on without the pain medication that had faded away, my arms above my head tingling as they became numb after hours in that position. I sensed the frustration of the physician and I am sure he was cursing himself for promising me he would complete the process. Friday afternoon meant people just wanted to head home and start their weekend. The medical team was so kind and generous that I felt ministered to by angels. God could have made that mountain movable by flattening it in one fell swoop but instead heavy boulders were being removed at a snail’s pace. I received the strength to sing that all was well with my soul.
Joseph, sitting in that prison cell, forgotten and abandoned by his family, must have wondered if God was sleeping.
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
We do not understand God’s timing always or why some sorrows are not washed away, but even if they remain, our hope is in God alone. God did act for Joseph and I believe God is unfolding a plan for me too. What it looks like for me is yet unseen. I do know that I dream of many things yet and on the days when I lose my centre or struggle to find peace, I still understand the even if. My hope is in God alone and all will be very well with my soul. Call me a dreamer if you must, but know I am happy in that company of the cloud of witnesses that have dreamed before me.
What if God does not move the mountain in front of you? What then?
How do dreams influence your decision-making?
Dream-Maker, you place in our sleeping souls, images that allow us to say all is well with our souls. Even if you do not move all the mountains in ways that make sense to us, may our hope be in you. Let us cling to the smallest seeds of faith that remain in our sorrow and water them in song. Allow us to persevere in order to be a faithful witness until the ed of our lives. Amen.