“Joseph is a guy who kept getting pushed down and who still focused on God. I look at his life and I think, ‘I could have it so much worse.’”
My friend in Bible study was, of course, talking about Old Testament Joseph, the guy who had a multicolored robe forced upon him by his father, which I can only assume was gaudy because it always looks gaudy on flannelgraph, and who was sold into slavery by his brothers, and who was thrown into prison after being falsely accused of going after his boss’ wife. Yeah, absolutely, Joseph was a guy who kept getting knocked down. And yeah, absolutely, he was a guy who walked every step of his journey focused on the Lord. He took God with him into the pit, and on the road that caravan walked, and through the prison gate. My friend was absolutely right.
And yet something in her statement unsettled me.
As my friend and another friend went back and forth about their tendency to sing “Potiphar” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat every time that the read Joseph’s story in the book of Genesis, I realized that my knowledge of show tunes is lacking and that I fear that we in the Church might idealize Joseph too much. And probably Paul too, with all of his New Testament epistles.
I think sometimes that we look at guys like Joseph and Paul and we think that they’re the epitome of the “good” Christian, who learned to be content whatever their circumstances. I think we put these guys on pedestals and then beat ourselves up for not being able to just be “okay” when our loved ones die, or we fight with our spouses, or someone calls us a dirty name. I think we let it say that our faith is lacking when our immediate response to a difficult situation isn’t one of unbridled joy.
But, what if we have it wrong? What if we took Joseph and Paul off their pedestals?
I think we’d find that our faith looks a whole lot more like David’s, who’s said in 1 Samuel and in Acts to be a man after God’s own heart, who wrote multiple Psalms about being abandoned and persecuted and left to suffer. David’s a guy who literally had his enemies closing in on him, not the least of which is the king who could have killed him, and his first response is often lament – “Woe unto me” and the like. There’s not a whole lot of unbridled joy rolling off David’s tongue. What’s there is, I think, is something much more real. What’s there is authenticity and humility in his relationship with God.
Because here’s the thing: David didn’t just lament. David confessed feeling low and lacking, and he was certainly real with God about that. But, he also expressed deep trust in God’s love for him and didn’t waver in his belief that God would provide for him a way out. He took God with him too, just like Joseph, only it was into the deepest, ugliest recesses of himself. And he let God bring him out of the pit with His love and provision.
That’s what I think we’d find our faith looking like if we took Joseph, Paul, and even David off the pedestals we put them on. I think we’d find men who took God with them into the broken parts of the world and of themselves. I think we’d find real people who humbled themselves to God’s strength to bring them out of the darkness. I think we’d find a model we could follow today.
If we’d have the courage to take Joseph off his pedestal.
What do you think we’d find if took Joseph or Paul or David off their pedestals?