He Said / She Said (Day 8 of A Simple Lent)
I’m not really sure if I’m supposed to like Joseph. His Dad, Jacob, was a jerk. He was a liar and a thief, who seemed to take advantage of the blessing of GOD. And even after wrestling with his creator on the banks of the Jabbok, he didn’t seem to change much. I’m probably too hard on him.
Joseph seems arrogant and ignorant at the same time. Though I don’t condone what his brothers do to him, selling him into slavery, telling their father he was dead, just because they didn’t like him. The text doesn’t really encourage us to like him either. He even ignorantly insults his father who had come to defend him.
I can’t help but think Joseph is kind of a tool.
And yet I kind of think that’s the point. These figures aren’t perfect or heroic. They’re imperfect and cunning. They aren’t exemplars of virtue, but examples of our humanity.
The Imperfect Joseph
This is the Joseph who shows up in Egypt and impresses everybody with his wisdom and his dreams. It is the one who is given authority that shouldn’t be his.
And the one Potiphar’s wife wants to seduce.
This story from Genesis is one of my favorites because it is so very now. We haven’t changed at all in several thousand years. The unsupported spouse, lonely, looking to be appreciated; the rejection, the pride, the confusion, the fallout. Lives damaged and reputations destroyed.
A situation with no real proof, no possible way to know what really happened without being there. A matter of he said/she said.
The Proof We Can’t Have
How often it seems that we are looking for proof we can’t have. How often we want to be 100% certain of our decisions.
We put body cams on police officers in hopes to prevent confusion. And even then they “malfunction.” Broken? On accident or on purpose? How do we know?
We want assurance of a plan’s success before it begins. So we hire an expert. They’ll crunch numbers. They’ll give us a plan. And if it fails, was it the plan or the implementation? How do we know?
We ask for the impossible, but do we really expect to get it?
Joseph seems to be the perfect example of such a fool. He’s an idiot with his family and lets himself get into bad situations – he is certainly not a practitioner of safe church practices. But he is full of Spirit Wisdom. Wise in ways that he doesn’t even understand. And his imperfection makes him a perfect example of the kind of person to whom GOD gives authority.
I wonder, in the midst of all our confusions: our interpersonal and political fighting, the constant he said/she said we get in the media and in the breakroom at work: where might we find the focus to listen for Spirit Wisdom? And question world wisdom?
Where might we see past expectation and do the work of understanding?
Are we willing to admit that these solutions are easily found and more strenuously integrated into our lives? Solutions given to us in the gospels, like trust, faith, and love? That a more simple life requires some work on the front end? That Christianity is less like putting the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn and more like lifting an ancient torture device and carrying it wherever you go?
Or maybe we begin by saying that perfection may be something we obsess over but it isn’t something GOD gives two thoughts to. And in spite of our own imperfection, we are given access to the only perfect thing in the world. We just have to put in a little effort.
Daily Office Readings
Or visit the alternative Daily Office I often use.
This week’s homework is to discern a priority and focus on it.
Download the worksheet: A Simple Lent – Handout 1!