Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

--Prayer for the oppressed, Book of Common Prayer, p.826

As I thought about what I could say today, on "no bullying" day, that could make a difference, I realized there is a wonderful example in the Bible of "it gets better"--The Genesis story of Joseph. I invite you to step away from my post and read it before going further. It starts on Genesis 37. Read chapter 37, skip chapter 38 (I have never figured out why they jammed that story in there on Chapter 38,) and then read on to the end of Genesis, to the end of Chapter 50. Take your time, and read the story carefully. Then come on back to my blog post.

Now, Joseph didn't get bullied because of his sexuality, but he got bullied just the same. He was treated cruelly by his brothers. The special coat his father gave him made him all the bigger target for the bullying, just as many modern folks who are bullied have a "special coat" all their own. He was bullied, thrown in a pit, and left for dead by those who you think would have learned to love him. I often wonder how he felt, down there in that hole, until the Midianites pulled him out. How did he feel being sold in slavery to the Ishmaelites, then sold again to the Egyptians? It wasn't all roses, but it got better. He had another setback with that little prison stint, but in the end, it got a LOT better.

I think what is interesting in that story for me is that when Joseph and his brothers meet again, they do not recognize him. However, Joseph recognizes THEM. That's kind of how it is when you are bullied or abused. The abused remembers ALL the details. The abusers? They sort of put it aside and move on to their next target.

It is a good message to the bullied. The bullied won't forget. Unfortunately, it also means that the bullied have to come to some sort of reconciliation. Now, not every bullied person is going to get the happy ending exactly like Joseph got, but it really DOES get better if, as the bullied, we become aware of what needs to be reconciled. Sometimes we find that the reconciliation is not with another person, but within ourselves. Sometimes we find "a life led differently" is its own form of reconciliation.

I also paid attention to how important Joseph's ability to interpret dreams was in the story. That's another message to the bullied. Pay attention to your dreams--even the ones that seem hard or gruesome. In the times of my life I suffered abuse, I had some very interesting and vivid dreams. Over the years, I have written down the details of them, and as time passes, I realize many times, one part of my brain was talking to another part of my brain. The answer might not be clear in the beginning. Remember, when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream about the sleek, fat cattle being eaten by the thin, scrawny cattle, it took seven years to see that his intepretation was true. I have had times that a dream I have had only made sense more than a year or two later.

But what I am trying to say is, when things feel hopeless, the "right paths" out of the darkness and into the light lie in our own hearts and minds through our relationship with God and we shouldn't discount our own ability to hear God in the small still places.

It gets better.

It really does.

I can only speak to the times in my life where I have been abused, and for different reasons than what we are honoring today with purple ribbons, but most of the time, we just have to live long enough to start over in a new setting for things to start to get better quickly.

So when things feel really bleak, I invite you to read and re-read and re-read again the part of Genesis with the story of Joseph--the story of a teenager who was bullied, beaten, thrown into a pit and sold into slavery--not once, but twice. It got much, much better for him--and it can get much, much better for you and me and all of us.


Thanks for this reflection. What an insightful--and timely--re-reading of Joseph. The story of Tyler Clementi really made the problem of bullying real to me, and your interpretation may be part of the antidote.

Thanks, Josh. Given your credentials, I'm honored you enjoyed it.

good story, my younger sister asked me if i can give a service to the childrens group while the rest of the congregation had the adult service up-stairs. the topic was on bullying, and this story fits perfectly.....Praise God



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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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