Let them Say what they will Say
Reading between the lines of Matthew 1.24 and wondering what may have gone through Joseph’s mind as he committed to obey the Lord and take Mary as his wife.
Young Joseph wandered out of town.
He trudged the quarter mile around
The hill, and through the fields of grain
To think. What did he stand to gain
Or lose by marrying this girl
With inner beauty like a pearl—
But outwardly a broken reed,
A flower choked out by a weed?
Sixteen, unmarried with a child…
Joseph could hear the raw and wild
Tongues wagging now in Nazareth.
This marriage seemed to be the death
Of Joseph’s honor. It would take…
And leave his reputation in its wake.
Could he obey God through the pain—
That awful cursing of his name?
Just then the wheat seemed bent in half
Like cruel children when they laugh
At some poor soul been made a fool
Out on the playground after school.
He knew that kind of laugh. He’d heard
The young men snicker at the word
Of some poor lass who’d gone astray
And had a baby on the way.
He’d listened as the women talked,
And watched them as they’d sneered and gawked
At pregnant girls and called them tramps.
He’d heard them gossip ‘round their lamps,
And how they called men rogues, and said
Almighty’s curse was on the bed
Of any man who sinned like that…
Who without marriage did begat
And what would be at work?
He knew sarcastic smiles would lurk
Around each corner of the shop.
He knew crass jesting would not stop,
But only gather strength if he
Told these coarse men about his dream.
He’d have to let them point and grin—
With poison fingers, filled with sin
Like snakes protruding from their arms
With only hopes to do him harm.
They’d never listen to his side.
But only bite, and quip, and chide!
Then, on his face he felt the wind
Blow softly by, then pause and bend
To plant a kiss upon his cheek.
The way his mother used to sneak
Into his room when day was gone
And kiss the forehead of her only son.
He wondered what she’d think of this.
He wondered if he’d get a kiss
When he broke the news. Or if he’d
Get a stern warning he should heed.
He wondered if her heart would joy,
Or if she’d scold her little boy.
So in the house young Joseph went.
And tried his best to give no hint
That anything was wrong. But wise
Old mothers see it in the eyes.
“What’s wrong my son” his mother asked.
“Nothing” he answered through his mask.
“Nothing? Then why such a long face?”
At this he gave a strong embrace
And cried. He wished he might have died
And stilled the bruising of his pride.
At last he lifted up his head
And told his mother all the angel said.
To his relief she did not scold
But believed him. And bowed her old
Head to pray and to thank the Lord.
“Why do you shudder at this word
My son?” she asked. “The Lord has blessed!
He has done more than I had guessed.
He’s sent Messiah to my son.
You’ll shepherd the Anointed One!
Why do you fret?”
“What will they say?
What will the local people say?
They’ll mock and scorn my name and yours.
And number Mary with the whores.
The reputation we have earned
They’ll set on fire just like a burned
Up corn field. And naught will be left!”
“Come. Come outside my dear Joseph”
She said, and led him to the field.
“Why does our corn-patch always yield
A crop my son? Do you know why?
Does corn seed fall out of the sky
Like manna from the Lord on high?
Or is it that some corn stalks die?”
And even when the crop burns down,
Still, kernels fall into the ground
My son this is your place.
Some men will slap you in the face
And ugly words will sear you heart.
But this is just God’s work of art.
He’s making you a dying corn
So His salvation may be born.
A seed that lives and is not sown
Is destined to remain alone.
But if the seed falls to the ground
It scatters blessing all around.
So hand the Lord your feeble life
And take young Mary as your wife.
And when the gossip makes you bleed…
Know God is making you a seed.
So let them say what they will say.
Yours is to die and to obey.”