I spoke some time ago with an old friend on the phone. We were talking about some of our friends that we’ve known for most of our lives. What about Ted, I asked, what’s he up to? “He’s living the dream.” Then I remembered what he had said to me a while back when I put the same question to him about myself: “Livin’ the dream!” How am I living the dream?
Remember the story of Joseph and his brothers? Well, at Mass the other day, we heard the end of the story. OK, just to recap, Joseph is the favorite son of Israel’s 12 children, and his father makes him a special coat. The brothers are jealous of course, and they don’t even want to talk to Joseph. To make everything worse, Joseph has a dream where he and his brothers are out in a field binding sheaves, and Joseph’s stood up while the ones of his brothers gathered around him and bowed down to him. When he tells that one to his brothers, he’s basically all done.
Out in the fields tending the sheep, the brothers are ready to murder Joseph, but one of them talks them out of it. Instead they sell him to the Ishmaelites. They tell their father that he’s dead.
Well Joseph ends up in Egypt, and he ends up in prison on false charges. Then, a few of the Pharoah’s servants end up in prison with him and he interprets their dreams for them. The one who got out forgot about Joseph. How low can it get? Well, a few years later, Pharoah has two dreams that he can’t understand, and then the servant does remember Joseph. Joseph interprets Pharoah’s dreams, revealing that there is coming a time of abundance and then a terrible famine. He tells Pharoah to store up during the time of abundance to prepare for the famine.
When the famine hits, Egypt is the only nation in the known world that is prepared. Many nations were kept alive during the famine because of the food that Egypt had stored up. And Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt and met with Joseph, without knowing who it was. After they had finally discovered that it was their brother, they became concerned that he would take revenge on them. They came and bowed down to him, begging him for forgiveness. The whole family was brought to Egypt, reconciled under Joseph, and they all enjoyed the special favor of Pharoah.
So, after their refusal and all the suffering that Joseph and his father and whole family had been through, the dream had been fulfilled.
OK, after all that, here’s the question. What if the brothers believed in the dream from the beginning? What if they thought he was a prophet to be listened to, what if they thought he was worth bowing down to, what if they did and they never shipped him off to Ishmaelites. Well, we can’t always know for sure, but I think it’s a safe bet that he never makes it to Egypt, that Pharoah’s dreams don’t get resolved, that no country is prepared for the famine, and that a lot of people die. All that evil that was done to Joseph, all the rejection by his brothers, the years in prison, the alienation and separation from his father? God turned it into the salvation of a lot of people. It was all part of the plan. But here’s the key.
For the plan to work, it took Joseph’s faith in God.
He had to continue to live the dream.
But Joseph replied to them: “Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people. Therefore have no fear. I will provide for you and for your children.” (Gen 50:19-21)
We can have a lot of tough things happen to us from other people. It can come from people who are close to us, from family or people in our workplace or church community or sports team or school groups. But all that evil that is done to you, God wants to turn it into the salvation of a lot of people. It’s all part of His plan.
But for the plan to work, it takes your faith in Him.
Keep on livin’ the dream.