When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. – Matthew 1:24-25 (NIV)
The “but” in this story has me looking at Joseph in a new way. I checked at least 3 different translations, and verse 25 starts with “but” in all of them.
I still believe Joseph to be kind because he considered leaving Mary without causing her public shame.
I still believe him to be obedient because the text tells us that Joseph did as he was told.
But … I cannot help and wonder what made Joseph hold off on “consummating their marriage” until after Jesus was born. Was he mad? Did he still have doubts about Mary and this so-called “holy” conception? Was it his ego? Did he suffer from imposter syndrome? Was Joseph punishing Mary by withholding sex? Did he withhold other forms of intimacy as well? I hope not!
Trusting what God is doing is not always easy—especially when God’s plans disrupt the plans and dreams one has for themselves and their loved ones. Coming to terms with an unexpected reality takes time, takes work and takes letting go of what could have been in order to make room for what is.
The struggle to remain faithful when it seems your world is crashing in all around you is hard as hell! But, love makes it possible.
God, as we come close to the celebration of the birth of Jesus, may we let go of any expectations, fear or doubt that would hinder us from fully experiencing the intimacy of your love made flesh among us.
Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter gratefully (though not always gracefully) serving as executive director of A Just Harvest, Senior Pastor at San Lucas UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary. She is a joyful contributor to The Words of Her Mouth.