One moment that I will never forget no matter how long I live is the moment I walked out of the orphanage in Borivichy, Russia carrying my precious little seven-month-old daughter in my arms. She slept soundly while I drew her blanket-wrapped body close to shield her from the cold December winds. It was midnight on Christmas Eve and God had given me my heart's longing. A child to parent for Him.
The snowflakes were gently falling around me and while others in the group of newly adopting parents were unaware, I knew it was a God moment. My heart sang. But along with the song was also an awareness of the huge responsibility that was now mine. I knew I needed God's help to parent this child.
At Christmas time, as I remember that special night, my thoughts frequently turn to the time of Jesus' birth. Was Joseph gripped by that same kind of overflowing awe and thanksgiving? Did he draw Mary close to his side as they gazed at their newborn son? What was there in Joseph that God chose him to be his earthly father? What can I learn from him?
These questions and more have prompted me to read and research. As an adoptive parent my curiosity and interest in the character of Joseph is great. He knew what it was to parent a child he did not father. But did he ever wonder? Did he ever feel inadequate? Did he ever doubt his own abilities? Did he ever gaze into the night sky wondering how he would do it?
We may never know the answers to these questions, but we can grasp some insight into his character by noting the pattern of his actions.
Joseph is first mentioned in Matthew 1:18-25 where he is referred to as a righteous man. But this righteous man faced a heartbreaking dilemma at the news of his beloved's unexplainable pregnancy. Because Mary and Joseph were betrothed, Mary's apparent unfaithfulness carried a social stigma. According to Jewish civil law, Joseph had the right to divorce her and the authorities could have stoned Mary. He faced an extremely difficult choice.
But according to scripture, God appeared to him in a dream, telling him to carry through with his plans to marry Mary and revealing to him that her child would be the Messiah. Taking Mary and Jesus as his own was probably humiliating for him in the eyes of the community, but he chose to obey God. His actions reveal not only his strong principles but also his sensitivity and self discipline. This first act of obedience also indicates Joseph's responsiveness to God. He was a man of integrity who was willing to do God's will -- no matter what.
Although others may have disapproved with his decision, Joseph did what he knew was right. How many times as an adoptive parent have I needed to make decisions for my children - decisions not always met with approval? Difficult school decisions, discipline, setting healthy boundaries, etc. face parents every day. Joseph's example is an encouragement to parents to obey God rather than to seek approval of others.
Joseph's tough choices were not over with that first dream. Joseph received yet another dream from God after Jesus' birth. In Matthew 2:13-15. God tells Joseph how to protect Jesus from Herod's wrath. Joseph, although not the natural father, was the legal father and responsible for Jesus' safety and well-being.
Once more Joseph was receptive to God's guidance, and he obeyed. He took Mary and the child to Egypt, where God enabled him to provide for his family. Is it too much to believe that God will enable us as well to provide for our children? As a single parent, I too have experienced moments of financial concern, but God has always provided for us. What He has done in the past I am sure He will do in the future. These precious children are His and He will continue to give us guidance in providing for them.
Joseph's story of faith and obedience does not end in Egypt. Again, God appeared to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 2:19-23) revealing to him the proper time to take Mary and Jesus back to Israel. Joseph immediately returned. But on the way, he learned the new king Archelaus was a violent man. This news certainly must have troubled him. Once more, God spoke to Joseph in a dream, guiding him to Galilee where the family could settle in Nazareth. This fulfilled a prophecy concerning the Messiah, and Joseph again obeyed.
We do not know how long Joseph lived as Jesus' earthly father. He is last mentioned in scripture when Jesus was twelve years old. But Joseph trained his son in the trade of carpentry and made sure he had spiritual training in Nazareth. He also took the whole family on the yearly trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, which Jesus continued to observe during his adult years.
While we only get a few glimpses of him, scripture reveals to us that Joseph was faithful to God. Could it be that this is the key to successful parenting? To model a life of consistent faithfulness and obedience to God? Obedience to the guidance we receive from God leads to more guidance from Him. Social position or previous experience is of little importance when God chooses to use you. Parenting with integrity and walking in humbleness with our God are the most important "qualifications" we can have throughout all of the parenting stages.
This Christmas may the life of Joseph inspire and encourage you. God still longs to reveal Himself. He still desires to give parents guidance. He still wants us to grow in dependence and trust in Him. There is nothing to fear when we walk with Him.
This article originally posted in December 2008.
Sharon Beth Brani lives in Culpeper, VA..Her greatest treasures are her Lord and her two adopted daughters. She is a licensed professional counselor and a specialized adoption coach working with adoptive families. She helps the adoptive parent and their children to maximize the adoption process and to enjoy a lifetime of committed love and growth in a healthful family situation. Her website is www.heartprintsadoption.com. She can be reached at email@example.com