The tears — my briny badge of lack of courage — flowed again, and again I choked them back as I read for maybe the thousandth time the passage in which Joseph names his second son. Ephraim. For God had made Joseph fruitful in the land of his affliction.
So few of us who enjoy the inane luxury of writing or reading a blog would consider ourselves to live in a land of affliction — and yet we do, all of us. We may not dwell in the tents of Darfur or Haiti or Afghanistan, but we all are consigned to our flesh, and the flesh is a land of affliction.
My flesh has reduced me to sobs lately, and I tell myself it’s only pain, not privation, and certainly not the sort of pain that must be subdued by induced coma. And so I dismiss my affliction and commit the same sin of denial of my assigned providence as those I resent for comparing my affliction to others’. But the Word of God in the naming of Ephraim reminds me to pray for fruitfulness in my particular land of affliction.
I had overestimated the challenge before me. I had believed it was for me to figure out what fruitfulness is; but that is not part of my assignment. All I have to do is hoe the rows before me and perhaps introduce new varieties in my garden from time to time.
A new variety I am cultivating this year is Korean, and I find it difficult to grow such an exotic variety in this aging soil. But the land has been tilled many times before, learning other languages; and the best part is, I don’t have to account to anyone for introducing this variety.
Joseph served the land of his affliction as a slave and as a prisoner before he became its vice-regent. I, too, have been slave and prisoner in my land of affliction, and I wish I were ready to be appointed vice-regent; but I don’t know what my fruit will look like, or in what stage of ripeness it will be, at harvest. I just pick up my hoe, knowing that on a good day it’s hard, and on a hard day it’s very hard.