The brothers saw Joseph from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, "Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams. (Genesis 37:18-20)
Over the years, I long lost count of the number of times I was told
in relationship to my sexual orientation that I "would not see _______ in your lifetime." The blank could be openly gay and lesbian people ordained, or being called to lead a congregation, or have our relationships known and honored in public, blessed, and even married. All of these things I would not see in my lifetime.
Off and on I succumbed to those predictions and tried to tow the party line. Occasionally I was seen as colluding with the system that these predictions served. And I was colluding because a very slow gradualism seemed to be the best way forward.
I never stopped having the dream of full equality both in the church and in society, but I was willing to play my part in inching our way forward, knowing that we were claiming ground inch by inch.
God, however, graciously, seemed to have another timetable. It turns out that God is a bigger dreamer than any of us can be. As I said, I often succumbed to gradualism, but God has never let me stay in that safe place, just as God has not allowed the Church to stay in that safe place.
Generally speaking, we do not much like dreamers, we do not trust them, and, when their dreaming sounds like it will result in a diminishment of our power or a re-direction of societal (or theological) norms, we can, like Joseph's brothers become murderous.
Sometimes that murderous intent, and the actions it inspires (like selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites), ends up working for good, as it did eventually in the story of Joseph. It is certainly true as I look back at the gay and lesbian movement toward equality in church and society, we were helped along by our detractors as much as anything else. A moderate person who has been unsure about full equality has been shown the results of inequality: quick and pompous moral judgment, and a level of invective that can inspire only the extreme of the "orthodox," etc.
The advice of Gamaliel in the Acts of the Apostles (5:38-39) becomes apropos: "So in
the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone;
because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not
be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against
Or struggling to put down God's dream when you think you are putting down the dangerous dream of some other who seems a threat.
By the way, every one of those predictions that "you will not see_______ in your lifetime," have proven to be untrue. God's dreaming, and God's inspiring, and God's timing are rarely, thanks be to God, our own.