Progressively Deeper: Joseph
Updated: Nov 8, 2019
I finally got around to getting my hands on some Rob Bell books.
I was warned that he was too liberal while I was in my good old Midwestern Bible study in college, and so I avoided him so I didn't have to deal with even more judging for my opinions on things. Because, well, I got a lot of those. My faith was doubted quite a lot for a supposedly interdenominational college ministry, due to my progressive mindset. But, hey, I had a community, and so I persevered and just tried not to rock the boat too much unless I felt called to.
But anyways, now, years later, I finally got my hand on his books. The first ones I grabbed for myself were Velvet Elvis and, of course, Love Wins. I started reading Velvet Elvis first, because I wanted to get used to his style before diving into the controversy.
And, man, I enjoy the book already.
I got to the part, at the very beginning, when he was talking about how the Rabbis liked to say that the scripture was like a "gem of many faces," that every time you really read it, another side of it would show. And, the fact that Scripture does that is just a testament to the Living Nature of the Word.
So, I read that, and it really resounded with me.
There have been a lot of times in my life in which I have had that happen to me. Each time I read the Bible, different stories pop out to me and I glean different messages.
Example, when I read Job at the height of my depression, I felt companionship and connection with Job and garnered strength to continue on. When I read it a few years later, after a lot of therapy and growing, I read it and instead focused on the trustworthiness of Job's friends and the backtracking and, to put it bluntly, bullshit that they were spouting. I was in a place where my career, my friendships, and my future were all uncertain, and so God gave me a reading of that book that focused on how to weed the bad people out, how to sniff out the garbage, how to notice when someone was trying to pull a fast one on me or throw the blame in a corner it didn't fit in.
Both valid, both needed at different times of my life.
Another long, somewhat needed tangent later, let me get to the thing I wanted to write about in this blog post, the story of Joseph.
I love the story of Joseph. It inspires me every time I even so much as think about it. A man who does the right thing, and keeps trying to do the right thing, even as the world is against him and tries to tear him down. But, he keeps on the path he knows he should be on, and he ends up being pretty much the king of Egypt and saves the world practically. He is a true sign of God's providence and plans, and is a great example to go to when things don't seem to be going your way: Joseph had to be in prison to meet the palace staff, he had to be sold into slavery to have the plan work.
Anyways, the last time I was reading the story of Joseph, which, in case you didn't know is Genesis 37-50, I noticed myself continuously focusing on something really random.
A few times throughout Joseph's narrative, it adds in a verse about Joseph preparing himself for whatever he is about to do next. It happens a few times, but one such example was Genesis 41:14 (which was fun to type).
Pretty much every other time that I've read this, I pretty much skipped over those verses. Not that they weren't important, but they're just verses about Joseph, like, bathing or shaving. Not really gripping story, not really a life lesson in how to deal with trials of faith. Just... you know... a thing people do.
But, this time, for some indecipherable reason, it stuck out to me. Like, it wouldn't get out of my head. It plagued my thoughts. I started randomly asking my friends what they thought it meant. And, as you would imagine, they all jokingly decided to answer, "Well, maybe God is telling you to take a shower." And to each one of my friends, I warned them that I was not afraid to shower them with my ire. After that, most of them would shrug and tell me they had no idea.
One day, though, after quite a long time of trying to figure this out, one person finally cracked the code.
"How do you present yourself? I mean, you know how to dress and such. But like, how do you view yourself? How do you think you deserve to be viewed?"
I remember just stopping in my tracks and blinking at them. That was it.
"Well, answer me. How do you think you should be viewed? How do you view yourself?"
And well, to be honest....
The answer was that I didn't.
At least not well.
At that time, while I recovered from the worst of my depression, and was, at the time, in a pretty good space mentally, that didn't mean that I was perfectly well.
For example, I had abysmal self esteem.
I didn't view myself as the scourge of the Earth. But I didn't think I was worth the effort. I did my work, and I did it well. But I didn't feel like I was worth the effort to get all gussied up. Putting tons of extra attention into my appearance when I wasn't worth focused attention seemed silly. I could dress up for work (as I had a fancy office job), but I wasn't someone who really cared for my appearance, didn't really care for how people viewed me, didn't really care what image it was that I put out there in the world.
And man, that line of questions from that friend rocked my world.
I was important. God chose me to be part of His Kingdom.
It wasn't that I needed to now put all of my time into my appearance, I mean, the Lord looks within, and the Lord doesn't care for the outward appearance. But, I needed to start to think about what was the image I was putting out for the world. What was the way I wanted people to interpret me? And, honestly, most importantly, I needed to understand that I was worth the effort, was worth being focused on.
My self esteem, my self worth, was in shambles, and God was done with me being defeatist about myself.
And so, the last time I read through the Book of Genesis, and read the story of Joseph, I wasn't focusing on trust or bravery or faith.
God was reminding me that there are Josephs today.
That I might even be one of them.
And that Josephs cared about how they presented themselves to the world.
Since then, I've had a lot better of a view of myself. I definitely would not say that I have any level of ego. But, I no longer am confused by the idea of me being wanted in the room. I no longer apathetic about how the world views me. And I think about the image that I put out to the world. As I know that the things that I do are the reflection of God that some people see, and so I need to be aware of that.
And, honestly, it has driven me to read all of the stories that I swore I knew backwards and forwards again with a deeper view, instead of glances or summaries. As sometimes it's the throwaway verses that really get to you. (and, honestly, when it's a throwaway verse that kicks you in the gut, you know it's from God)