This morning in Sunday School we talked about the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. It’s a pretty well-known story. Joseph was the favorite son of his father Jacob, and everyone knew it. The problem with Joseph was that he took several opportunities to rub it in his brothers’ faces. He had dreams that the moon and the stars bowed down to him, and he told his brothers stories of how one day they would bow down low before him too. Obviously, they didn’t like it that much and plotted one day to kill him. One of his brothers Simeon, did not approve of the plan and convinced his brothers to sell Joseph as a slave to an Egyptian caravan on their way through the countryside. They then convinced their father that Joseph was killed by a wild animal and went on with life as normal. Joseph entered Egypt as the lowest of society, but God had other plans for him.
Eventually Joseph’s integrity and leadership skills earned him the position as the manager of Potiphar’s house. Now Potiphar was a prominent man in Egyptian society, and he trusted Joseph with everything that he had. Joseph was a handsome young man, and Potiphar’s wife had her eye on him. Day after day she propositioned him, and he always refused. One day, however, no one else was around when she begged him to go to bed with her. She grabbed his coat and it fell off in her hands as he ran out the door. She had him, however, because she could say whatever she wanted and in an instant, Joseph’s reputation and position were shattered. He was thrown in prison and remained there for several years. Even though he made the right choice by refusing her, perhaps he could have prevented the situation of being alone with her by always making sure that there were other witnesses around. God redeemed his position years later, but would his story have been different if he would have confided in someone else about the situation before things spiraled out of control?
Even though temptation looks different for every one of us, the same enemy seeks our downfall: pride. This pride says, “I can handle this on my own. This is ugly, and no one needs to know.” We all desire that others see us as clean and perfect, and though we all know nothing could be further from the truth, we continue to keep our dark secrets hidden in a corner out of sight.
My friend shared a personal story this morning of a time in her life that was very difficult. She was constantly reminded of her past and the things that she was ashamed of. It was like she was covered in trash and everyone could see it. One day she decided to go for a run. It happened to be New Years Day, and all the trash and waste from the parties that took place the night before lined the streets and sidewalks. She wondered to herself, “Is this what people see of me: trash everywhere? This is a mess!” It was in that moment God showed her that she could rejoice in the fact that the trash was outside and no longer in the house. All the things that she was so ashamed of were no longer stored in a closet, smelling up the house of her life. She threw it out. Now that the truth was told and her dark secrets made known, she could rejoice in the healing and purity of her heart once again.
As I listened to her story, I thought of all the things that I hold deep inside. I know that in life we all deal with our past in stages as God stirs up the neatly made piles and cleans out the closets one by one. Lately it seems that I have come face to face once again with my insecurity, and I am realizing that its effects run much deeper than I had originally thought. It is pride that has kept this locked inside, because like everyone else I desire for the world to see me as beautiful, not as a girl walking around covered in trash. I know my house smells a little, but it has been ok, because I never let anyone inside. However, God isn’t content standing at the door of my heart knocking while I yell, “Hold on just a minute. I wasn’t ready!” Nor is He content coming into a house full of trash hidden in the closet. He desires to make me whole. Unlike most people I know, He really wants to take the trash out. Why do I struggle to let Him do it?
The other night I had a dream that I was at a fancy dinner party. There were two tables, and I found myself sitting at the empty one while everyone I wanted to be with laughed and had fun at the other table. Occasionally one or two people would come and sit with me, mostly out of pity because they saw me sitting by myself. Yet there I was sulking, because I saw myself as unworthy to sit at the other table with everyone else. I was really bothered by the dream, and truth be told I still am, because for years that was the attitude of my heart. I wonder what lie I believed for so long that I had no place at the table of abundant life. So many years were wasted at the other table as I let joy and fulfillment pass me by.
If I could be completely honest, every day I face the temptation to return to that table. Life and all its possibilities terrify me much more than they excite me. It would be so easy for me to fade into the walls or crawl into a hole where no one could ever find me or see me. In that place I could never be a problem and I would never get in the way or cause anyone pain. However, every day God reminds me of the truth that He loves me and that He has a plan to bless others through my life. He knocks relentlessly on the door of my heart, to the point that it is slightly annoying, because He never has and He will never give up on me. Yes I am a mess, but I am a beautiful mess that God is fixing up and cleaning out, one closet at a time. The trash may be on the street now, but at least it is no longer in the house.
I am learning to let go of my pride, because Proverbs teaches us that pride comes before a downfall. Joseph found that out when he allowed a situation to get out of control because He failed to let anyone in on his deep dark secret. Recently I took a trip to Atlanta with the director of the organization I volunteer with. In the course of the conversation, we arrived on the subject of fear. When she asked me what it is that I am afraid of most, I swallowed my pride and admitted, “I am afraid that I am going to let you down.” She responded, “You probably will, as I will probably let you down. However, when it happens, there is only grace. When my daughter was learning how to walk and she fell down, I didn’t scold her and say, ‘Why did you fail?’ I helped her up and we tried it again. Falling down is part of learning how to walk.” Suddenly a weight was lifted off my shoulders, not because of the assurance that I will probably fail, but because I was no longer carrying the burden of my fears alone. I let someone else in the secret, and it was a comfort to know that someone would be there to help me stand up once again when I fell.
What is your temptation that you keep hidden in the closet of your heart? What burden are you carrying that keeps you from being everything God created you to be? He desires that you have life and that you have it to the full. Let someone else in on the secret. Don’t be afraid to put your trash on the street. When it comes to your fears, failures, and temptations, you cannot carry them alone. Allow someone to help you lay them down at the foot of the cross, because when you fall at His feet, there is only grace.