Prayer at the Pit
When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe… and they took him and threw him into a pit. – Genesis 37:23-24 (NRSV)
What Joseph’s brothers did to him was unspeakably cruel, but if you know the backstory, you might be tempted to think he deserved it. He was an insufferable kid, preening and vainglorious.
Still, it’s appalling that they left him for dead down there. No matter his personal flaws or his family’s dysfunction, he didn’t deserve the pit. Nobody does.
If you read your Bible, you know that Joseph’s story ends well. He becomes an Egyptian potentate, forgives his brothers, and lives happily ever after. What you may not know, because it’s not in the Bible, is that in his old age, Joseph returns to the pit.
According to an ancient Jewish commentary, Joseph stands quietly at the edge, peering down, remembering. Then he lifts his voice and prays: “Blessed is God, who made a miracle for me in this place!”
What does he remember most from the worst moment of his life? Not the damage and loss, but God’s creative love. Not the cruelty and hate, but the life God brought out of it, right there.
No one deserves the pit. But if you’re in one, Joseph wants you to know God’s there, too. And because that’s true, its awfulness may become the stuff of better days. You probably won’t become an Egyptian potentate, but you’ll have your own miracle. You’ll breathe again, love again, forgive and be forgiven.
You might not believe it now. But some day, when you revisit your pit, you will. Without forgetting the grief, you’ll remember the Presence. Without ignoring the pain, you’ll discern the love. Without denying the grief, you’ll declare the gift. You’ll lift your voice and pray:
“Blessed is God, who made a miracle for me in this place!”
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.