Reflecting and Doing
This is a classic illustration which can be adapted for many texts. You may have seen something similar using bleach, but this is a less-hazardous version. Nevertheless, don’t drink the ‘water’ and wash your hands afterwards.
You will need:
- White cotton cloth, such as a handkerchief
- Iodine solution (Click here for product on Amazon)
- Fish tank dechlorinator (Click here for product on Amazon)
(I am using pure Sodium Thiosulfate, click here for chemical on Amazon)
- Two glasses or small bowls
- tongs (optional)
Prepare by dissolving a few crystals of dechlorinator in a glass of water, and keep to one side.
Start by showing the white cloth. Drip iodine on it and talk about how we all have things wrong in our lives, things we have done wrong that we’d like to put right.
Scrub the cloth together and show that the stain is fixed.
(Note – Iodine will stain skin and clothing, so you might want to use tongs and a tray, or just clean up with the dechlorinator solution and water afterwards)
Pour water into the spare glass and try to wash the stain away. It does not wash out and just makes the water dirty too. Talk about how we cannot mend ourselves. The situation looks hopeless.
Bring out the other glass of ‘water’. Say that God is the God of second chances, the finder of lost sheep, the hope of the hopeless.
Dip a corner of the dirty cloth and watch the stain disappear. Push the whole of the cloth in, and see it turn clean, ready for a new start.
Two bits of electronic communication seemed significant to me today – one I received and one I (nearly) sent.
I wrote an email this morning, but accidentally pressed the ‘send’ button before I had finished. You probably know the feeling: “Oh no! I hadn’t signed off properly, that’s going to sound really rude. I hope they’re not offended.” So then you have to write another email apologising for the first one and adding the bits you had missed off.
But I didn’t have to do that today. My email provider has a very handy UnSend feature. I can click a button and my ‘sent’ email is hastily clawed back. It is a wonderful oops-eraser, and I think we all need one of those – and not just in emails!
I also had a facebook message from the son of some college friends. I’d been close to his parents when he was born, but we’d drifted apart over the last couple of decades. I’d rationalised this as ‘family commitments got in the way’, but secretly I felt it was my fault – that I’d annoyed them or been in the way or something. However, he said that his parents had lost contact with lots of people, and he wished he’d encouraged them to keep in touch with friends more.
Revelation! It wasn’t me! I had had that weight of guilt hanging over me for decades and now I knew it wasn’t something I had done. Relief!
I wonder how Joseph’s brother’s felt when they heard, “I am Joseph, your brother, the one you sold into Egypt.” How they must have rationalised their behaviour over the years. How they must have pretended that they didn’t care. How they must have lied to themselves as much as to their father. And now they are faced with the reality of what they had done. The unspoken guilt of years, lying on their hearts like lead, must have boiled up into a mixture of terror and unbelief.
But suddenly, the burden of guilt is removed. “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” The brothers are not told, “I forgive you this once but don’t do it again.” They are told it wasn’t even them who did it!
They are given an UnSend button, the chance to claw back what they thought was irretrievable, to start again with a clean slate.
And don’t we all need one of those?
Where do you need an UnSend button?
Talk to God about it (he knows anyway, so it’s OK).
Genesis 45:1-15 Holman Christian Standard Bible
Joseph could no longer keep his composure in front of all his attendants, so he called out, “Send everyone away from me!” No one was with him when he revealed his identity to his brothers. But he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and also Pharaoh’s household heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But they could not answer him because they were terrified in his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please, come near me,” and they came near. “I am Joseph, your brother,” he said, “the one you sold into Egypt. And now don’t be worried or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
“Return quickly to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: “God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me without delay. You can settle in the land of Goshen and be near me—you, your children, and grandchildren, your sheep, cattle, and all you have. There I will sustain you, for there will be five more years of famine. Otherwise, you, your household, and everything you have will become destitute.”’ Look! Your eyes and my brother Benjamin’s eyes can see that it is I, Joseph, who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all my glory in Egypt and about all you have seen. And bring my father here quickly.”
Then Joseph threw his arms around Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin wept on his shoulder. Joseph kissed each of his brothers as he wept, and afterward his brothers talked with him.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.
Fish tank dechlorinator is usually Sodium Thiosulphate. This is classed as a non-hazardous product, but please be sensible. Do not let children handle it. Use gloves if you have sensitive skin and wash all items thoroughly after use. If in doubt, please refer to safety information. I am not responsible for any effects of using this product.