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Those Who Stood by Me

Those Who Stood by Me

When Pharaoh calls you and says, “What is your occupation?” you shall say, “Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,” in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians. Genesis 46:33-34

When I got out of treatment and returned home nine years ago, it was in disgrace. I was sober, but my life was a disaster, and everyone knew it. I was embarrassed to simply go to the grocery store. No one was overtly rude to me, but I know how people talk and I knew what they were thinking. There’s that addict. So, it was profoundly meaningful when anyone made a show of standing by me. In church, some simply gave me a hug. In my personal life, there were friends who went out of their way to show support. In my professional life, there were those who took a chance on helping me get back to work. They could have held back, embarrassed to associate with me. I wouldn’t have blamed them. I was embarrassed for myself. Instead though, they supported me, which I desperately needed. I’ll always be thankful for those who stood by me, even at some cost to their own reputation.

In today’s passage, Joseph similarly stood by his brothers. These were the same brothers who once sold him into Egyptian slavery. Now though, starving in a widespread famine, the brothers came to Egypt in desperation, where Joseph risked his own reputation, looking out for them. They were humble shepherds, which was apparently a loathsome occupation to the Egyptians. Joseph didn’t try to hide this fact, though it was probably personally embarrassing to him. This was his family and though they were lowly in the Egyptians eyes, he looked out for them.

There’s a lesson here for me. I once started volunteering in jail on Sunday mornings precisely because everyone in church seemed so shiny and perfect. In jail, I found others who knew how badly they needed God. Jail was a safe place to associate with the lowly though. When some of those guys started getting out of jail, I had to ask myself if I was willing to associate with them in the community. Do I want to be seen at the coffee shop and church with criminals? I’m ashamed to say I had a moment of hesitation. Thankfully, I realized my folly and quickly got over it. As others once stood by me in my disaster, I must stand with those who now need it. God has loved me and so I must love those he’s put in my life – even if others may look down on me for it.

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