As a child I loved working with dot to dot pictures. I pondered them before I put pencil to paper, trying to form in my mind the whole picture, wanting to unravel the yet unknown. With a crayon tight in his fist, my grandson looked at me satisfied and proud. The dot to dot on the page was a jumbled scribble. Frenetic streaks crossed and wobbled across it.
Sometimes our dots line up, and we connect one to the other and the picture is clear. We see what God was trying to do and we say, “Oh, I get it. That’s why that had to happen that way.” That’s why the tire was flat. That’s why I got sick. That’s why I lost my job. “Now I understand.”
But other times none of it makes sense. We wait for God to tie up the ends and put a bow on it so we can look at a completed package with spiritual satisfaction, admire the intricate workings of God and justify His actions. But He doesn’t and it doesn’t.
Joseph, of the coat of many colors fame, lived much of his life in an unfinished dot to dot picture. Like a line from dot number one to dot number two, Joseph had traveled from a young boy to a man.
His line moved from a dark pit to seductive temptation.
It squiggled from a place of trust to suspicion.
The dark line took knotted turns from unjustified slander to an unmerited two years in prison.
And then it seemed to go haywire up and down across the page from captivity to second highest in the land.
The dreams of an adolescent, favorite of his father, despised by his brothers became reality. He became an Egyptian ruler, respected and feared; obeyed and powerful.
“I am your brother,” Joseph, dressed in Egyptian finery, said to the bewildered men in front of him. (Gen. 45:4; NKJV).
While his brothers prostrated before him like the drama of a play, those youthful dreams came to life. It all made sense. He could make out what the picture looked like. While they pleaded for food and life, Joseph knew. He had been placed there for a purpose. It had little to do with him, with favoritism, with coats of many colors or a mother who was loved deeply.
It was about a Sovereign God.
Where do we get the idea that the Christian life must look like a beautiful painting on display for our viewing pleasure? Why do we stoop to think it is about me, and it will all turn out lovely and unmarred because somehow I deserve it?
I forget I am not the dot-maker.
Sometimes God’s painting resembles the black backdrop of Joseph’s deep pit. We wait in the dark, alone and afraid. Other times within the enormous canvas of life, our little square inch looks like a fall from grace, dripping with betrayal, and hopeless. The piece we walk in today might look like a gnarled mess of random dots without any connection, with no future.
God sees all of it. He has the whole picture.
Like the red colored picture of my grandson, life at times feels scribbled, without form or definition. “I’m a mess, and life makes no sense,” we conclude.
“Remember me?” Joseph spoke to the terrified brothers who stood before him. While at one time they held his life in their hands, the tide now turned. Joseph had the power to do to them whatever he wanted.
Joseph’s dots were lining up.
Like a heavy iron chain the truth dumped at his brother’s feet, all of its guilt, shame and hatred. Its weight must have resounded into stillness.
In the spaces in-between our dots, God uses even the sinful choices of others. He uses what hurts, destroys, robs and makes us miserable. He uses stuff that detours our plans and changes our lives. Joseph’s story reminds us there is purpose, direction, and a perfect brushstroke of the Master, even when the picture doesn’t make sense.
“For God,” Joseph said to the shocked brothers. “sent me before you to preserve a remnant for you… to save your lives by a great deliverance.” (Gen. 45:5-8; NKJV).
When our picture remains incomplete and answers are a mystery, when faith leans on sight rather than a Sovereign God, we see a confusion of events, and the dots don’t match up. But if our eyes rise to a Person, perfect in all His ways, our dots connect to Him like strong ropes of safety.
Joseph’s picture unfolded before him like a scroll, and it was beautiful. Yet, even he saw only a few small squares in a kingdom drawing. He didn’t see the vast hand of God throughout future-history. He never knew how his life still touches millions of lives.
We love neatly tied up bundles. We love when it all makes sense. But sometimes it doesn’t. Somethings never will until we see Christ, when He makes all things new. When He raises the dead to life, and the lame to walk. When the blind will see, and the speechless will talk.
And you know what? When that day comes, our eyes will be on Christ alone.
And nothing else will matter.