Dear Joseph


Post Author: Sarah Schaffner


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We are excited to introduce another new column to our line up at Fidelia’s Sisters!  “Our Cloud of Witnesses” is a venue for exchanging the stories of those who surround us with strength and grace.  Some may have gone before us. Some may be journeying right along side us. Some may have spoken to us out of history. Some may be our favorite characters out of a beloved book. Some may be those who are the most unexpected. Tell us who has shed light on your own journey of faith and vocation, and help us to see the many ways we are truly embraced and held up by a great cloud of witnesses. Submissions may be sent to witnesses(dot)ycw(at)gmail(dot)com. 

My dearest Joseph:

Do you remember that afternoon a few months ago, just after our betrothal?  We were walking outside together, my younger brother running ahead, when he suddenly stopped short, and shouted to you, to come quickly.  We hurried toward him and saw what had caught his attention.  A baby bird had fallen from his nest; he wanted to take him home, hoping to cage him and make him his own, but not you.  Joseph, you knew what that tiny creature needed, he needed to be home, with his family, with those that loved him; he needed compassion and love, not the curious hands of a six-year-old boy, and so you tenderly gathered him up, and you gently placed him in the nest above—softly whispering, “Shalom, baby bird.  May Yahweh keep you.”

Joseph, I write this letter to you, trembling, fearful, feeling just as that tiny, baby bird did, having fallen out of the only home I’ve ever known, and I pray for that same compassion, for that same love.  I sit trying to discover the words, somehow to soften them, to spare you, but they are too heavy upon my heart.  My future husband, my dear, loving friend, I am pregnant.

Now, please, I beg you before you throw this letter down in anger and shame.  I promise to you, I have known no man.  My dear Joseph, I know this seems too much to bear, but please, please I beg to you to listen.  For just a short time ago, I was sitting alone in the dim light of the evening, when this, and I’m not even sure how to describe it, but this presence entered my room, and the darkness was filled with this bright and radiant light.  And, I wanted so desperately to look away, but I couldn’t—Joseph, I couldn’t—and my eyes fell upon the most beautiful of creatures that I had ever seen, and so much of me wanted to run away and hide, but so much of me had to stay, to see what would happen next.

And then he spoke, and he said my name, and told me God loved me, and to not be afraid.  And Joseph, I was so very afraid, but at the same time I wasn’t—I can’t explain it, but my fear was overwhelmed by the excitement, and my terror was calmed by this great presence of wonder and peace, amazingly enough peace.  And this angel—for I think it was an angel—told me that I was going to bear a child, a baby boy, and he would be the one to reign over the house of David, over your ancestor’s throne, Joseph, and he would be called Son of the Most High.  And I was so confused, because…Oh Joseph, I could only think of you, and what you would think I had done, and then the angel said that the Holy Spirit would come upon me, and I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know what to say.  And then he told me about Elizabeth, that she and Zechariah were finally, after all these years, going to have a baby as well; a baby that they have waited for so long for.

And his words kept ringing in my years—for nothing is impossible with God; for nothing is impossible with God, and I had no doubt left, and I knew exactly what to say, God help me Joseph, I cried, “Here am I; I am the servant of Yahweh, let it be done to me, what you have said.”  And as quickly as his presence filled the room, he was gone.  And now, my friend, it’s been well over a month, and the angel’s words have been fulfilled.

I know you will find it so difficult to believe me—I know the thoughts that must be in your head.  And, I know, as well, what you could do to me.  I know the shame that I will bring upon you, upon your family, upon my family, and I know that you could send me away, that you could have me flogged or stoned or killed; I know that you could throw me upon the judgment of the merciless high courts.

And Joseph, no one would fault you, in fact all would pity you; for who could believe this tale of mine—But, from the depths of my soul know that I am yours and only yours, from the depth of my soul, know that I am God’s, and that despite our doubts, and our misgivings, and our fear, nothing is impossible with God.

And, I know, as well, that even if you do believe me, that if somehow we find a way forward, that our lives will never be the same.  We had all these plans, and hopes and dreams; our wedding, more time getting to know each other’s family; you had wanted to continue working at your father’s carpentry shop; we had wanted to spend time together, to create our own family together, a baby that would have your curly hair, and my deep brown eyes.  We had wanted to simply live through quiet, ordinary, simple years together and God has changed everything; God has come into our perfectly planned lives, and shattered all the hopes and dreams that we had for each other.  But, Joseph, I’m not sure why, but there is something within me that says this surprise, this interruption from God might be exactly what we need—it might be exactly what the world needs.

Joseph, if you’re still reading this, there is something in you that knows what I say is true.  So, I say to you this—I know, deep within that through this baby God is going to change the world.  And I simply cannot sit here and send the angel away; I cannot sit here and tell God to find someone new.  I am going to carry this child in my body; I am going to give him life, to watch him grow, to tend to his scrapes and his wounds, and the torments of his peers.  I am going to hug him and kiss him and send him off into the world.

And although I’m not sure where this will end, I know that so far God’s words have come to pass, and I am going to continue to trust; this life I am carrying will enter the world, and this life will change the world.  And Joseph I’m asking you to help me–as you tenderly gathered up that tiny bird, I plead with you to gather up God’s own son, and to place him back into that tree; I plead with you to nurture him and protect him as your own, until the time dawns for him to fly.

And now my dearest Joseph, it is time for me to close, for I leave in the morning to visit my cousin Elizabeth; I always find such comfort in her presence.  On my journey, I will never cease to pray for God to meet you as God has met me; I will never cease praying that upon my return our paths will continue as one; and I will never cease praying that as the angel proclaimed, this baby Jesus is hope for the entire world, that this baby reveals that nothing is impossible with God.

Until we meet again.

With All My Love,

Mary


Sarah Schaffner serves Bethesda Lutheran Church in Eugene, OR with two other co-pastors (one being her husband). She is mama to three quickly growing children and grateful for the opportunity to be vulnerable with her young women colleagues.

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