I have been away from my blog for several weeks, and for no good reason. I’ve been a little bit of a slacker, but then I am a student, what do you expect?
This past week I was at a Scripture Union camp as a group leader. (http://www.suscotland.org.uk/). It’s quite simple, we arrive a few hours before the campers, are given last minute training and time to set up the campsite, in this case it was a large manor house called “Lendrick Muir” check it out on the SUScotland website. After setting up all that, having our trainings and briefings it’s time for the kids to arrive, they come in drips and drabs to start with as parents often drop campers off earlier than the organised coaches arrive. Then the main coaches arrive and we introduce ourselves to our groups, make sure everybody has a name badge.
We then run through the program over the next 6 and a half days. We play widegames like capture the flag in areas which are staggeringly beautiful and varyingly muddy! As well as activities like archery, trail biking, go-karting low and high ropes courses. These are lead by trained activities instructors, along with an activity new to Lendrick Muir – raft building. This is a lot of fun, and if you’re an old hat with SU and have been to lendrick muir a bazillion times, then it’s worth going back at least once more to try and get a shot in their lochen.
I was with a group of young boys for raft building, and after our briefing, and walk to the small lake/very large pond we were showed a good solid knot and the campers set to work while I sat back and watched.
They took a while to get started with arguing and “discussions” about the “design” of the raft. They eventually finished the raft, and I was rowed out to an island about 20-30 meters away from the shore, almost the length of the lake, and left their to wait.
Wait I did, for quite sometime, until the instructor in charge called to them from his canoe saying they had to go back to shore… leaving me on the island.
Feeling buoyed up by my lifejacket (:D) I walked into the water, which was freezing and swam after the raft, even with my terrible swimming I soon caught up and was just in time to sit on a barrel and “accidently” knock a few campers into the water while a photographer for SU was happening by. This seemed like a good idea at the time, and was great till I moved to end of the barrel, causing it to flip out from under the raft and begin floating away. Immediately the corner of the raft began to sink.
Instead of paddling back to shore it ended up as more of a towing back to shore, with myself and one of the older campers swimming the raft back to shore, and pushing when the water was shallow enough.
This is where it gets challenging from a leaders point of view. The children are cold, wet and tired. They are not interested in de-constructing a raft and then tidying, so motivating them to do that, and then to jog (for the colder ones) back to the house. After a lot of encouragement, some star jumps and a little bit of shouting we got the raft tidied away and the campers walk/ran (bar the one who was carried halfway back) back the equipment store to take off their waterproofs, life jackets and helmets.
What’s the point you might be saying? Well it was kinda this point in the week (a little over half way through) when I twigged that I was basically one of Jesus’ campers… The difference being he is perfect group leader… He never loses his temper with me when I mess about, He is always encouraging, He doesn’t get worn out by silly questions, and he genuinely has a good sense of humour.
As I was thinking in that vein of things, it all seemed to click into place, I realised that I needed to put more trust in God, it’s all well and good praying “Give me the strength to do your will” but if you have no clue of what God’s will is then that prayer is kind of pointless. “Please give me a solution to this problem, and help me to deliver the solution correctly” was remarkably more useful. I found God providing solutions to problems I didn’t even know existed, and patience to deal with all of those problems.
It provided a new perspective for me because I usually work on the point of view that God has my back, and if it isn’t his plan then it isn’t going to work out. This plan works in long term situations, like where do I study for uni, things like that, but in the day to day situation of camp, there is no time for options to be narrowed down. I had to be proactive in my decisions, I had to decide on the go. Which required me to put more trust in God, more time in prayer and just trust more that He was guiding me.
It worked out, you can tell because the camp was overall a success. As far as I know everybody enjoyed the majority of camp (it’s hard to enjoy the fear of going up the high ropes, or the silence after lights out) So what does any of this have to do with my regular series on Genesis, which it must do, because I mention Gen. in the title, and I always hold true to my titles! (cough)
Well up until now I’d been looking at Genesis as the story of the people of God as they grow from individuals to families etcetera. That’s not what Genesis is about though! It’s actually the collection of the life stories of a group of people, who just happened to be related. Each individual has their own stories, lessons, personalities and more. Imagine the way the Bible was passed on originally. Gathered round the dimming fire the patriarch would tell a bed time story, the history of the family. The stories and adventures of the previous generation, to teach the new generation the lessons of practical life, and pass on the history.
Each individual was treated as exciting and new. So when we read Genesis 37, and we should read it as the story of Joseph, and be mindful of the centrality around him now, but also consider the change in dynamic. We have moved from Jacob, onto Joseph, and as we shift from old to new, we need to be prepared to learn new things.
(One of the main markers and clues that this should be read as a completely new section is that Jacob is now refereed to as Israel, since he is now the patriarch of a large family with many servants and livestock. He is the ‘heel/manipulator’ he was before, but now a grown man, everything about him is magnified, his good and his bad.
It is split in half. A section introducing Joseph, and a section introducing the story.
The first half we learn about his personality. He’s a little bit dopey, he doesn’t think before he acts (a trait of the arrogant) – how does he actually expect his brothers and father to react to his dream? Jacob tells Joseph that he is an idiot out of love I’m sure. Yet his brothers just foster hatred towards their half brother.
We are told of more reasons why his brothers hate him, he is singled out – made special with a fancy robe, and his father makes so much more fuss of him. In the later half we see that he is given the task of checking on his brothers, of reporting back like some kind of supervisor or manager – and he also skips the hard work of actually caring for the flocks. All the more reason for hatred to form, I can imagine his older brothers being so spiteful towards him and their father – how dare he ignore custom and raise the youngest son to be higher than the oldest? Breaking traditions and conventions that have lasted generations.
In the second half we read about their plan to act! The scene is set, Joseph walking across the land is spotted by their brothers – his long robe whipping out behind him in the wind, his relaxed pace, strolling along, not a care in the world, contrasting against their old, dirty and worn clothes, exhausted bodies and stresses and strains from the sheep.
It’s TOO MUCH, something must be done. So they hatch a plan, a group of men who have shown deviousness and cunning in past encounters, and willingness to kill. Rueben the eldest son, feels responsible for his brother, and changes the plan, why kill him quickly he suggests to the others. Leave him to die from exposure or dehydration. Much nastier, this appeals to the others, and Reuben plans to sneak down later and save Joseph.
However, his planning is almost for naught, as the other brothers spot some slave drivers, and a chance to make a quick profit, and get rid of their brother. Selling him to the slave drivers and making good on their plan to eliminate the brother who causes them so much anger and grief.
The scene for the rest of the story has been set, and already there are lessons to be learned.
From Jacob, who doesn’t address his personal problems over more than 40 years to care equally for his families. The tension between his wives and their concubines spills over to the children, who clearly want the love and approval of their father so much they will literally kill for it.
We’re taught in the new testament to love everybody as we love ourselves – for me certainly, that’s quite alot of loving to do. There’s a lot of work I know I need to do, and a lot that the church as an organisation needs to work on as well. Why are we so caught up in doctrine? We should be caught up in loving the people God calls us to serve.
From the brothers we learn not to let emotion fester, don’t let your feelings overcome you, and force you into decisions you might well regret – or should regret! If the brothers had told Jacob, or Joseph they where being absolute tools, things might have transpired differently. I’m not saying it would have been easy, or common, but seriously, if there is anything the world needs just now it’s conversation about important things. People need to be open about their emotions and work constructively with them. Too much of the emotion in the world is channelled to wards destructive motives. People get all worked up about something, and then take it out by shouting, fighting or vindictiveness. Next time somebody pisses you off, take a deep, deep breath, remove yourself from the situation, and go for a run, pray, think, reflect. Get on top of what happened, try to understand why you reacted the way you did, and why the person made you feel that way. Take that emotion that could/did cause pain, and use it to make yourself stronger as a person. Gain control over yourself, in order to show people your true potential.
Joseph has the most to teach me personally. He strikes a resonance with me – he was the youngest child, just like me. I was over confident, talkative, unthinking and oblivious, like I have been for a large portion of my life. At the start of his story I find it easy to talk about what he must have done wrong – because I know all about how they happen, I’ve had a lot of practice at some of the same mistakes. It makes it easy to advise on where he went wrong, but it’s still hard to take your own advise, and the advise shown in the rest of the tale.
Joseph has misunderstood his purpose! He feels the calling to be more than he is, God gives him dreams about it, but he doesn’t wait his turn. A lack of patience causes him harm. God over comes and leads him forwards through what seems an impossible situation.
Life for Joseph is about being his best, for him, he thought he had found the solution to life. He was close. Life is about being the best you can be for God, by following his teachings and plan for us is how we truely learn to reach our potential.
Thanks for reading.