I wrote this as part of my other post ‘Joseph, the Unsung Hero’ /emmanuelreagan/2011/12/joseph-unsung-hero.html, but then realized that this was incongruous. To just delete it off would go against my principle that words are precious, the creativity almost of first order. I decided to make a post out of it. Besides, by making this as a separate post, this would be the 50th post of this year… a good rounded number to end 2011. 🙂 In other words, this is a post for the sake of a post. If you, for some reason have been reading till now, this might be a good place to stop. 😛
If you didn’t, you have only yourself to blame… Well, as I was writing my post on ‘Joseph, the Unsung Hero’, I tried an thought experiment of putting myself into Joseph’s shoes. Just to see what it would mean to be the man that Joseph was. There are three points which I’ll have trouble putting myself in Joseph’s shoes, or should I say sandals…
Matt 1:18 Mary had been betrothed [that is, legally pledged to be married] to Joseph.
This sounds pretty much like an arranged marriage. Even though I come from a culture where arranged marriages do happen, it is on the decline. I would find it tough to willingly accept an ‘arranged marriage’. Living in the world of radical individualism, having someone else make decisions especially when it comes to matters so close to my person, would be a bridge too far to say the least.
Matt 1: 20 An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit…”
Honestly, I would rather find it difficult to obey an Angel in my ‘dream’ suggesting that I marry a pregnant lady. Living in a post-Freudian world, I would find such a ‘dream’ rather confusing if not spooky. I would wonder if my ‘subconscious’ was venting out some repressed feelings in my dream. I might even have been tempted to argue with the Angel that he was asking me to something that did not seem very consistent with some parts of the revealed (Old Testament) word of God.
Matt 1:25 But ‘knew’ her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Not be able to have sexual intimacy with my wife for at least a year would be a tough sell to say the least. Having had to be abstinent until marriage and when one thinks one has finally arrived, to realize that one has to wait for one more year would not be an easy pill to swallow.
The Man Joseph had no hesitation. He, with amazing speed agrees to marry Mary as per the Angel’s command. (Matt 1:24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife…).
I think there are three problems why it is difficult for someone born in the modern age to put oneself into Joseph’s shoes/sandals…
I think in the modern age, our culture place a lot more premium on the ‘attraction-factor’ than any other time in history, which is one of the reasons why we find ‘arranged marriages’ impossible. We can’t imagine getting married to someone we don’t feel attracted to. If we look at human nature, for centuries attraction developed after marriage. In making ‘attraction’ a prerequisite to marriage, I wonder if we are putting the cart before the horse.
The second problem with modern age is that we don’t believe that God intervenes in history to communicate to his children about His plan for their lives. When it comes to matters of marriage we listen more to our hearts promptings than to God’s guidance. This reductionistic decision making process is akin to cutting off ones limb to fit the small cot.
The third problem is that we have made sexual intimacy a big part of marital life. I have read psychologists say that most problems in marriages can be traced by to sexual problems between the husband and wife. I don’t know how this works… but I think if someone is truly in love, they’ll be attracted to each other even if they don’t have sex with each other. I think here too people in urbanized cultures, by giving too much importance to sex, are putting the cart before the horse.
I don’t know that we can set the clock back… but we’ll have to be true to human nature, else we cease to be human any more, and I think we are getting close.