The bible calls Joseph, the dreamer, successful. In fact, he was called a success when he was a slave. That baffles me to no end. Here’s the part that really gets me: it says The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man (Genesis 39.2a).
It doesn’t say, Joseph had tons of money and he was a successful man. In today’s money driven, overnight-success-crazed society, it is hard to imagine that one would be called a success while he was a slave. On the contrary success has become synonymous with money.
That’s unfortunate. Because by this definition, we have so many unsuccessful people in the world. And we all know that that is simply NOT true. In fact, we’ve seen first hand the damaging effects of money on celebrities and if there is something that we ought to be sure about, it is that money doesn’t solve all problems.
So how exactly do you define success?
Our definition of success shapes our goals and our dreams. That very definition is a continuum. My sixteen-year-old self had a much clearer picture of what success meant – go figure: I was living rent free, no responsibilities and no bills to pay and my ONLY job in life was to go to school and get good grades! My 22 year-old self believed that success was about ‘saving the world’. Of course I gave that definition up when I realized that I was setting myself up for failure – I mean how arrogant of me to think that I could save the world. About a decade later, success is defined differently – family, friends, joy, happiness and stability. Ask me in another 5 it will probably involve having healthy happy babies, and in another 30 years, success will probably mean having regular bowel movements!
Perspective is important.
Joseph had a dream and got sold by his brothers for dreaming big. That didn’t stop him. He kept going. Joseph became a slave to Potiphar, and even then was a success. As a slave! And then he got thrown into jail (for something he didn’t do). And even then, he was a success – head guy in the prison. And still kept his dream alive. He had lots of broken promises, people said they would remember him and promote him and then when they got their break, they straight up forgot him. But he kept his dream alive. And one day, he got the big break he had been hoping for: and when Pharaoh called for him he didn’t go into his presence all scruffy, he didn’t bring up any entitlement issues like its about time my break came through. And what a big break he had!
I relate to Joseph so much because I am a dreamer. And yet on this PhD journey, just like any other journey to pursue your dream, there are days when you are just not motivated. Days when you ask yourself what’s the point? Why am I here? Is this ever going to end?
Joseph went ahead to write foreign policy for Egypt and basically recession proof them so that they became lenders and not borrowers at a time when things were crazy elsewhere. But he was a success even before the title of prime minister.
We may not be where we want to be, but we are further along than we used to be. Our success is not only defined by our arrival at the ultimate destination,whatever that destination might be, it is also the journey that gets us there.
The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man.
With God on our side, all things are possible.