My friend Joseph is, like me, keenly interested in family history. His interest, however, is much more highly motivated than is my hobby-based approach to beginnings. Joseph began his life (some forty-nine years ago) as an infant without a name or known family; he was placed in a blanket-lined basket and abandoned without explanation on the steps of a Chicago apartment building.
I mentioned Joseph and I are friends, but I didn’t know his history. What I know about Joseph is that his broad, warm smile is a reflection of his broad, warm heart. When Joseph greets you, his generous manner communicates sincere attention about your life.
When I read Mike Masterson’s post, The Foundling in the Basket, I was immediately reminded of another infant in a basket … Moses. The parallels between Moses and Joseph K. Wood are noteworthy. Because the Egyptian Pharaoh feared that the Israelites were becoming too numerous, he ordered the boy babies of that time to be killed (thrown into the Nile River). But when Moses was born, his parents placed him into a basket and set the tarred/pitched basket into the river, stationing his older sister nearby to watch over the basket and young Moses.
Of course, God had a plan for Moses and eventually Moses grew up in the Pharaoh’s palace. (Read the story in the second book of the Bible, Exodus. It’s a good one!) In time, Moses would be God’s leader to shepherd the Israelites out of Egypt to their own land.
God also had a plan for Joseph Wood’s life. Even though he’d been abandoned as an infant, God provided adoptive parents and siblings to love and nurture him. Serving today as a Deputy Secretary of State for Arkansas, Joseph has experienced joy in his family and success in his career. In my view, he is to be greatly admired.
Let me suggest Joseph Wood also reflects qualities of his namesake, the biblical Joseph. Though the biblical Joseph led a charmed boyhood, being sold into slavery brought that idyllic experience to an abrupt end. Even in slavery, the biblical Joseph served his masters well and excelled, rising through the ranks to become the Pharaoh’s right-hand man. (This was a different Pharaoh from the one in Moses’ time.)
As with Moses, God had a plan for the biblical Joseph, part of which was to provide for the people of Israel when famine became widespread. Having been sold into slavery by his brothers, the biblical Joseph forgave them, saying: “It was not you who sent me here, but God …” The biblical Joseph recognized God’s hand in his early suffering as well as in his high achievements in Egypt. The biblical Joseph had a complete and purposeful life in Egypt, serving in high government position, enjoying his family and the satisfaction of a job well done. But when his brothers came to Egypt seeking food (two decades after they’d sold Joseph into slavery), Joseph saw his life coming full circle. Questions were answered, relationships renewed and reconciled, hurts healed. In this instance, God had given Joseph an unexpected gift.
Like the biblical Joseph, Joseph K. Wood has risen to a high position in our state. (Who knows what lies ahead?) Masterson quotes Wood saying: “God found and saved me in the beginning of life and continues to be with me through the journey.”
We’re often reminded (by psychologists and psychiatrists) that there are three key questions we want answered during our lifetimes:
(1) Who am I?
(2) Why am I here?
(3) Where am I going?
Like most of us, I suspect my friend Joseph has formulated clear answers to each of those questions. He lives a purposeful life, dedicated to God, his family and his community. As with the biblical Joseph in some respects, the hope Joseph Wood embraces is a means for completing the circle in his life, finding a full resolution of that first question, Who am I? As with the biblical Joseph, I pray God makes it happen.