A letter from a Father

Thursday, December 25, 2008 11:52 AM By crosswaysnet , In ,

Star of Bethlehem

My Son,

Over the years, you have asked me many times about the night you were born. I have never been a man of great or many words. That is your mother's gift. She is the poet and the singer. You have heard her tell it time and again with all the grace and wonder the story deserves. While it is true that she is by far the better story teller, it is also true that I have used it as an excuse to keep silent. Mostly for fear that I would never be able to adequately express what I saw with my own eyes, and felt with my own heart. These are not things that are easy to translate into words, but they are true.

Now that the doctors say my time has come, I will try to give a voice to the story I lived more than twenty five years ago. You are man enough to know the truth. The story ends in wonder, but it began with deep grief. I say this not to place my pain on your shoulders, but so that you will understand what is now my great joy. Some of what I will share I have never told another soul.

When I was thirty years old, I came close to giving up hope of ever marrying. I was old for a groom, and our family's finances were dire. Years of failed harvests and Roman taxes had all but destroyed our business. All the others in our village were in similar straits. Yes, it was as bad as what you see these days - in some ways even worse. Herod seemed to be at the height of his evil, after all. You and I have prospered these past ten years, but I had not much hope of ever succeeding in those days.

Then, I met your mother. She was young, beautiful, head-strong and full of life. She was new to town, as her family came to join their cousins in saving what remained of their olive groves. I was struck with wonder over her but quickly gave up any hopes of proposing a union with their family. They were a proud lot, and we were paupers.

Jehovah has a way of changing fortunes, though, and using adversity to grant us the desires of our hearts. First, the year before you were born, a hailstorm financially ruined your mother's family. With taxes due, they had no cash or crops with which to barter. They barely salvaged enough fruit to press oil for their own table. They were going to lose their land altogether.

Second, was a miracle - I am sure of it. Your grandfather and I were hired to prepare a field for sale, clearing stones near where the new Roman road now stands. It was the only way we could earn enough to pay our own taxes - by the sweat of our backs and the blood of our knuckles. We had worked on a large boulder for a week, gouging out centuries of muck from around the weathered base. At the bottom, cleverly hidden under the last shelf of rock, we found... treasure. An ancient stash of coins, both gold and silver - enough to build a home and pay off every debt. We knew we had no right to the wealth until we owned the land. So, together, your grandfather and I sold absolutely everything we had for the twenty pieces of silver it would earn. And every bit of that went into the property. And then, the treasure was ours. Yes, Grandpa Jacob's farm is that place.

From this unexpected prosperity was built the home where you grew up - built on the very spot where the treasure was found. The rest paid your mother's dowry. Now, I was the richest of men. I was going to have a family, and the most beautiful girl in town was to be mine. I had gained the respect and envy of every man in our village.

My delight was short-lived. I had only begun to visit her formally when my own private disaster struck. Without a word she went into hiding and would not see me. A week later she left to stay with your great-aunt Elizabeth. The rumors began. People became quiet as I walked past. Then the horrifying truth - my seemingly unblemished bride was carrying someone else's child. My world went suddenly black. I had to renounce her as soon as possible so the rightful father could claim her. Otherwise she would undoubtedly be judged guilty of adultery and stoned.

I sat in silence the following Sabbath hearing the cantor sing from David's lament. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? - Do not be far from me for I am under threat and there is no one to help. - I am poured out like water. My heart melts like wax. I am out of joint."

My son, you must know that this was my lament on that sad day. All I had ever hoped for had crumbled to dust. I poured out bitter tears. And I knew why it hurt so much. Though I knew her very little, I loved your mother with a consuming passion. Someone else had stolen her from me, and I would lose her forever... But I still loved her. My simple prayer was this: "Lord, I give her back to You, that You might save her. I can do nothing for her. Do not let the cowards of this world harm her or the child within her. I wish her no harm." I left my burden of sorrow with God that day, determined to put her away quietly and somehow go on with my life.

He had other plans.

What was the death of hope for me, was the seed of miracles. My heart was broken but, indeed, that is often the only way to hear God. He sent His angel that very night, commanding me to stand by my betrothed, raise you as my own son and name you Joshua. Indeed, God saves. In that moment of revelation I received back the only thing I had ever truly treasured - a family of my own. I didn't know how we would survive the vicious attacks of cruel and faithless people, but if God was in this, I knew I must not fail. Hope was reborn.

Over the months that followed, God used the hard hand of oppressors to put us in that small, damp cave with the livestock, your mother already in labor. In King David's hometown, of all places, for that first messy, disastrous census. It was hardly a palace. The stone underneath was slick and the rock wall wet from the cold seep. I was again at my lowest. I had failed to provide a decent place for your mother to give birth. I covered her with my coat and cloak. I pressed back against the ox for warmth as I watched your mother struggle. I ran for clean water, bread and figs to get us through the night. It was your time to enter this world and I had never felt more exhausted, vulnerable and powerless.

But then something began to stir in my heart. I felt the generations peering over my shoulder at the sight. From Abraham to David to my own Father, standing with me to watch your take your first breaths. I didn't know if I had the ability to love the son of another, even if the other was God himself. And then I saw your face. As I held you in my hands, I knew. As much as Heaven had its claim on you, you were also mine. You favored your mother, but I knew we both bore your mark, somehow. My hope was revealed.

Son, I cannot express to you my pride in all you have become. You have earned the respect of your brothers and sisters, your mother, and myself. I have taught you everything I know. You are a master of the trade we have learned together. You have the honest hands of a working man, but they are also the hands of an artist. Those hands have known pain and healing, weakness and strength. Continue to use those hands wisely.

You are an honest and kind man. Even without great wealth, you will win for yourself an awesome bride. You are also a man of the Book, and a story teller like your mother. The rabbis listen to you. You have made the Holy writings come to life. You speak like your words have the power to resurrect the dead. Son, you are a living word from God Himself. Even as my body weakens and my life here fades, I am more alive today than ever before, and all because of you.

And so I must bless you now. It is customary to grant the greater part of a man's wealth and his livelihood to the eldest son. Still, I must beg of you to accept something far different.

Do not settle for such a small inheritance.

Leave me and all we've done behind. Forsake me. I release you. Your hands are made for building, I have no doubt. But you will build something far more grand than this little town can handle. Of this I am certain. You have the seed of greatness, son. You are destined to build kingdoms, not mere villages. Do not forsake that calling. Tell the story that seems to burn within you. Walk the road your true Father has for you. Many, many others will follow where you lead.

Dispose of the family business as you will, but let it not hold you back a moment longer on my account. It will fetch a fine price and will support your mother for the years she has. I proceed you now to the house of our fathers. It will be my honor to welcome you at the door when it is your turn to make the same journey. I will be watching at the window, patiently, eagerly, every day.

Go in peace, but without hesitation
go. Serve the Lord with gladness. Love Him and tell His story with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You are God's own, and my dear son.


Your father, Joseph.


Princess Ponderings said...

I still cry everytime I read this. I love your way with words.

June 17, 2010 at 2:26 PM
Princess Ponderings said...

I still cry everytime I read this. I love your way with words.

May 20, 2011 at 10:34 AM

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