Updated: Sep 3
Every New Year, there is a sense of excitement and anticipation as it signals new beginnings, fresh starts, turning a new chapter in life, and second chances.
It may be a continuation of good things too, while for some it may mean persevering through struggles with a hope that they will all end soon. There are also those who may have no clue of what they want to do or be as they go through the slog of life – no purpose, no direction.
Whatever we face, whether we are conscious of it or not, knowing who we are sets us up for what is ahead of us.
Recently, tracing genetic ancestry has become accessible. From 79 to 600 dollars, genetic ancestry, family roots, origin of the family roots, and possible relatives in different countries can easily be mapped out. There are many companies offering these services with results given within a few days to several weeks depending on the type of testing required. A lot of people have posted the results of their tests online with many of them finding out unexpected genetic roots.
A hero in the family
When I was in middle school, I found an old book in our house that contained an empty family tree. That got me curious and started asking my parents to fill in the tree. We made it until four generations up the line and were thrilled to find out that we were distantly related to Graciano Lopez Jaena on my father’s side through his great aunt. “Uncle Graciano” practiced community medicine, wrote articles exposing Spanish injustices, was a fiery orator for reform, and the first editor of the first Filipino propaganda publication, La Solidaridad, which called for change on Spain’s administration of the Philippines. Probing deeper into his life however, I found out some not-so-pleasant details surrounding his life and death in Spain. He died from tuberculosis shy of 40-years old without a peso to his name two years before the Philippines declared independence from Spain. His body remains in a mass grave in the Montjuïc Cemetery of Barcelona to this day.
Finding out about my vanguard-writer-hero forefather may have influenced me to write even as a child, though I’m not at all inspired with how he lived the second half of his life in Spain. Learning about our roots adds a new dimension to who we are. It doesn’t mean that we change our livelihood and personality because of that moving forward, but it gives us a deeper understanding of where we came from. That understanding helps us as we live today and the coming days.
Let’s look at Joseph’s story
Joseph was sold to slavery by his own brothers.* He could have lived and died as a slave but God’s favor was with him that he rose to become an overseer of the house of Pharaoh’s captain of the guard. Falsely accused of rape, Joseph was sent to jail but because of God’s favor again the prison keeper put him in charge of all the prisoners. Later, through God’s gift of dream interpretation, he came face to face with Pharaoh. Impressed with how God has shown Joseph the meaning of his dreams, Pharaoh appointed Joseph as ruler of Egypt second to him alone. A great famine covered the whole earth but because of Joseph’s management of the land and its produce, he was able to prepare for the crisis. Joseph’s family soon began to feel the effects of the famine that his father Jacob sent his brothers to Egypt to buy grain. Through a series of tests, Joseph was able to prove that his brothers had changed. He then revealed himself to them – the second most powerful man in Egypt in charge of the grain supply of the world. With great emotion, Joseph told his brothers that though they sold him to slavery, God had sent him to Egypt to prepare beforehand so that through their lives a remnant will be saved. .
Joseph put God in the center of everything he did and attributed everything to Him.
He may have once acted presumptuously when he told Pharoah’s chief cupbearer, his fellow prisoner, to remember him when restored to his official position and mention his name to the Pharaoh. It was clear to Joseph, however, who he was and what his purpose on earth was. God’s favor on him and his faith in God kept him focused on his destiny despite the tremendous trials and sufferings he experienced. Nothing dislodged him from who he was and what he was meant to do.
It is fitting to begin 2019 talking about roots and origins because they speak a lot about our identity and purpose in life. What will this year look like? In the next three weeks, join me in exploring this topic further and together let's see what our journey will reveal.
*For a complete account of Joseph’s life, read Genesis 37, 39-50.
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