I still remember coming off the mission field as an AIMer. I can recall all the excitement of knowing a new culture. I still remember the feeling of having seen new things, done new things, and been places that others just hear about in stories. The world was my oyster (whatever that means). Just hours off the mission field and all was well.
And then "poof".... reality came and burst my bubble. For starters, no one back home really cared about my experience (which makes since because I didn't care about what they had been doing either). Few people understood, and fewer people had time to act like what I did mattered. Over time, excitement transformed into frustration and even a bit of bitterness. Like so many before me and after me, my AIM experience was tainted by the foul aftertaste of reverse culture shock. I was an emotional wreck, struggling to understand my own purpose and identity in the world. Many things got under my skin and agitated me. From church to family to the cereal aisle at Wal-Mart, God's mission in my life was turning towards resentment and sorrow. Wow... that was a fun experience I can tell you!
When God took Joseph of Genesis out of the care and comfort of his family's arms, Joseph never knew what would happen next. Joseph had a winding, adventure filled road. One day he was a slave, the next a prisoner. One moment he was involved in scandal, the next he was involved in politics. Joseph eventually became king, ruling over the Egyptian people... what a ride! However, at the pinnacle of Joseph's success, Joseph was forced back into connection with his Hebrew roots. Scripture says Joseph's family didn't recognize him (Gen 42:8), didn't speak his language (Gen 42:23), and feared his foreign ways (Gen 44:15). Likewise, Joseph responded to his family with hesitation (Gen 42:15), hostility (Gen 42:7), and deep sorrow (Gen 42:24). In every way, Joseph sounds like a man going through reverse culture shock!
I can totally relate to Joseph here. I get his pain, his anger, his frustration. What I don't quite understand is how Joseph "bounced back" at the end. It amazes me that after multiple interactions and "tests," Joseph manages to reconcile his relationship with his family and even bless them. Joseph brought his family to Egypt where he gave them purpose, power, and provision as God had given Joseph earlier. I guess that's the key... isn't it? How do we take our experiences and use them for good? How do we take bitterness and turn it into blessing? Joseph was able to do that. How? Maybe because he understood that some scars only God can heal. Maybe because he realized that what people intended to do for evil, God intended to do for good. So, I guess our story isn't over yet either. Reconciliation and forgiveness are still possible, even after the adventure.
- Chris Johnson