Small confession: I have trust issues. I know I’m not the only one, and I’m not really sure why I do, but I know that they’re there. That’s why one of the things I appreciate most from the story about Jesus’ birth is the role of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. He’s put in a really tricky situation where he needs to trust both his fiancee and God in some big ways.
Here’s a quick recap of the story:
Joseph and Mary are engaged for a period before Mary finds out her relative Elizabeth is pregnant in her old age. For some reason, Elizabeth’s husband, a local priest, has stopped speaking. So Mary goes to visit Elizabeth and help out around the house. Before Mary leaves, however, she comes face to face with an angel, who informs her that she is going to give birth to God’s Son, all without sleeping with a man. After three months, Mary returns home to her betrothed, and probably showing a small baby bump. She explains the situation to him; that it’s God child and that she was faithful while she was away.
Joseph is confronted with a few choices in this moment, and all of them indicate both a level of maturity and trust on Joseph’s part.
Joseph could not trust a word from Mary’s mouth and get furious that she cheated on him. According to the Old Testament law, he had every right to bring her up on charges of adultery, potentially leading to her death. (This option makes me wonder if Jesus saw a little bit of His mother in the woman caught in adultery in John 8).
But we see that Joseph doesn’t like that option. We’re told that Joseph was a “righteous” man, who did not want to humiliate his fiancee. (It’s worth highlighting the discrepancy between ‘righteous’ and ‘following the law’ this shows, because in the church, righteousness is often connected to ‘following the rules’ instead of being gracious).
The second option is that Joseph could quietly divorce her, as he plans to do. This would free him up from a lifetime of communal shame and embarrassment for being the guy too stupid to know she cheated on him. He’d still be able to marry and have a normal life.
Mary wouldn’t though. Had Joseph divorced her, she would have been a single mother, claiming that her boy was God’s Son. She would have been culturally shunned, and deemed crazy. She would likely never be welcomed in
church synagogue again. She never would likely find a husband willing to take her and her illegitimate son. Her options would have been limited going forward.
But that wouldn’t be on Joseph.
Or, the last option – Joseph could trust both his fiancee and God’s messenger, and stay in this relationship.
It would mean that, at best, people would look at them and think they had slept together before being married, and at worst, Joseph was a fool who was duped into taking care of someone else’s child. It would be years before there would be any chance for Jesus to validate Mary’s claims that He was God’s Son through His teachings and miracles. That’s decades of sideways glances in the market and snide comments in
But Joseph goes through with it, choosing to trust both God and his (now) wife.
There are times when I get the feeling that God will show up in my life, and with little to know set up, ask me to trust Him with some incredible levels of faith. In fact, one of the only places I’ve ever been forced to trust to nearly the same level is inside of my marriage.
It isn’t the fact that my wife has access to every document she would ever need to turn my life inside out. It would be painful and hard, but I could rebuild a life from that if need be.
It’s the fact that my wife knows my deepest insecurities and wounds. She knows the things that upset me, as well as my deepest desires. That gives her incredible power against me. You could argue that she doesn’t do anything with that because I have the same access to her. I know her wounds, insecurities, and desires.
The problem with that is that isn’t a good or healthy relationship. Trusting in mutually assured destruction isn’t trusting the other person.
True relationships depend on trust. And true trust is only developed inside of honest, vulnerable relationships. A healthy relationship is like surgery: you must be willing to hand someone the means to harm you in order to be healed from whatever wounds you have.
Joseph was willing to live a lifetime of complications and consequences because he trusted his wife and his God.
My hope is that you can grow in your trust of God, even if it’s just the smallest of gains.
I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it…