Summary: Joseph had to learn that what God thinks of him was more important than what others thought of him. It was more important than his reputation. It gave him a new identity.
Getting a Bad Rep
December 16, 2007
Last week we say how John was born to be wild. This week as we rediscover Christmas, we are going to examine a crucial figure in the Christmas story: Joseph. I will begin with a story about a woman named Margaret.
Margaret was in her forties and suffered from bouts of depression and despair resulting mainly from an extremely poor self-image. She just couldn’t see herself as a person of worth. Over the years of her adult life, this image steadily grew worse. Finally reaching out in desperation, she sought the help of a counselor. It was here that she revealed what had happened long ago.
When she was a child, she was pretty average. She received decent grades in school. She was fairly happy. She was liked by her fellow students. That was until one soul-scarring day almost forty years ago. From the first day of class, Margaret and Ms. Garner, her bitter and harsh teacher, didn’t get along. They butted heads constantly. The conflict in this one-room schoolhouse escalated over the years until one fateful day when Margaret was nine-years-old.
That day Margaret frantically raced into class after recess, late again. Ms. Garner was furious. “Margaret!” she shouted, “we’ve been waiting for you! Get up here to the front of the class, right now!”
Margaret slowly walked to teacher’s desk and was told to face the class and then the nightmare began.
Ms. Garner ranted, “Boys and girls, Margaret has been a bad girl. I’ve tried to help her to be responsible but she doesn’t want to learn. We have to teach her a lesson. We will force her to see how selfish she is. I want each one of you to come to the board and write something bad about Margaret. May this will motivate her to be a better person!”
Margaret stood frozen as the students, one by one, began a silent procession to the blackboard. One by one they wrote life-smothering words, slowly extinguishing the light in Margaret’s soul. “Margaret is stupid! Margaret is selfish! Margaret is fat! Margaret is a dummy!” On and on they went, until twenty-five scribblings of Margaret’s “badness” screamed from the board.
It was the longest day of her life. The venomous sentences taunted Margaret as each caustic word was written on her soul. When she got home, she crawled into bed, claiming sickness, and tried to cry the pain away, but the pain never left, and forty years later, she was slumped in a chair in the psychologists’s office cringing in the shadow of those twenty-five sentences. Slowly, Margaret became exactly what the students had written.
Margaret’s teacher knew exactly what she was doing. She knew the power of name-calling. She knew that the children’s taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a lie!! What people think of us does make a difference in how we see ourselves. Joseph also learned this lesson.
Knowing the Difference
Reputation – what others think of us
Identity – who we really are
Margaret slowly let the words of her fellow students tell her who she really was. Joseph had to learn the difference between the two and he had to learn this very important principle: