It didn’t take me long to decide what to do. For the several nights Mary came by every evening to try and see me. I just had my father send her away – I thought I would see how she liked it for a while. After about a week of this I sent word to her house that I would be divorcing her. It would be a private ceremony, just us and the Rabbi, and then I’m sure Mary would just move away. It would be quick and easy and best of all, over.
That was the first night that I actually slept well. Now I know what I’m about to tell you may sound crazy, but I woke up the next morning with an entirely different aim in mind. I had the strangest dream that night – except it wasn’t like a dream because it was more real than that – it was more like a vision. I’m not sure who it was that told it to me, but I remember the message clearly: “Do not divorce Mary, for her child is from the Holy Spirit.” And then he told me what to make this kid – Yeshua.
I’ve never been so conflicted. First of all I didn’t and still don’t understand all the implications of that dream. I mean, this angel – or whatever he was – called me Joseph son of David, which I’ve never been called, and then he said that there was something special about this little boy. So what was I supposed to do? Was that dream real? Was it from the Lord? Or was it just bad wine from the night before? It was pretty radical if it was real – that meant the Lord was asking me to become unrighteous. He was asking me to give up my reputation and go against the laws of my community. On the other hand, if it wasn’t real, then I would be taking on the responsibility of someone else’s child.
What can you do in a situation like that? You believe you have heard the voice of the Lord but it makes no sense to do what he has said. It defies logic. I mean He might as well have told me to move my whole family to Egypt! But I guess we all face that decision someday. So what could I do? I didn’t divorce Mary that day. In fact, when I talked to her, she told me that she had a dream almost exactly like mine! And believe it or not, she told me that she had actually not even, you know, been with a man. I know, crazy right? But it was sane enough for us to believe.
So against the advice of my father we continued our marriage. I with I could tell you that it was smooth after that. I wish I could tell you that our families fell in line and supported the decision we had made. I with I could say that we were not persecuted and that people didn’t whisper when we walked by. But I can’t. The day of our wedding was the worst. Usually the wedding happens about a year after the engagement begins and it can be a week long celebration, but not ours. Ours was quiet. Nobody from the community wanted to come. My mother was a basket case – she cried through the whole thing and then went home right after. Mary and I ended up just having a quiet meal at home together.
Things didn’t get better, either. People stopped coming to my father’s shop. My mother could barely go to the market without being publicly disgraced. Mary wasn’t even on speaking terms with her parents. We finally decided that the best thing for us to do would be to move from Nazareth. Maybe we could get a fresh start.
That’s really what we were thinking when we went to Bethlehem. Now that was an ordeal. Have you ever tried to make a 4 day trip with a pregnant woman? Let me tell you – the bathroom stops alone are enough to drive you nuts. That’s where my son was born – in a cave on the side of a hill in Bethlehem. And that’s the story of how our family began. Life was a little better in our new town, but we still got the looks when we walked down the street. We feel judged a lot of the time. And sometimes, if I am honest, I would have to say that it’s hard not to be angry at God. I was convinced that this is what he wanted from me, so where is the blessing for my obedience? Is my reward the disapproval of others? Is my reward a tarnished reputation? What about all the names that people call me and I know they will call my son? Is that our reward?
But in those moments when I feel angry, I catch a glimpse of my son – my little boy. I realize that this – my relationship with Jesus – is what really matters. And it’s like just for a moment everything that I once thought was profit – my own righteousness, my reputation, my job – I now consider loss. In fact, I consider all things as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of just knowing this little boy. And I’m not alone in that. I see in his eyes that he wants to know me, too. He loves me – not because I am a great guy, or have flawless righteousness, or because I am a great carpenter, but just because of who I am. And somehow, when I’m with him, all those things I’ve lost don’t seem to matter that much.
Because what I have is better. Much, much better.