Today's reading is littered with the narrative of Joseph. Since I am familiar with this story, my mind began to wander...
But it's not like my mind began to wander only today. It wandered yesterday too when we got our introduction to the Joseph narrative in Gen. 37. It went something like this:
"Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien..." (Gen. 37:1)
Oh this is where the Joseph narrative starts.
"This is the story of the family of Jacob." (Gen 37:2)
I'll read it again just to get a fresh perspective.
"...he had made him a long robe with sleeves." (Gen. 37:3)
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat... I wonder how many other people that read this today are thinking about this right now.
As my eyes scanned the following lines, I kept having to refocus because I was thinking about the Joseph musical. You see, our high school did this musical during the spring of my junior year. In the musical I played Isaachar, one of the horribly insignificant sons of Jacob in this narrative.
Less responsibility. That's what I wanted.
But of course, I began to reminisce of my time with that musical. You see, I often dreaded musical practice, but what high school student doesn't dread nearly everything at one point or another? There were a lot of aggressive personalities in the production. A lot of drama. Starting to sound like high school yet?
One thing struck me right at the beginning of Gen. 41: Everything that I was reading I kept remembering how it was depicted in the musical. Not only was I remembering everything as it was depicted, I remembered my feelings toward how it was depicted. In a lot of ways, this reading is more personal to me than the creation narrative ever will be. Why? Because I've played a part in recreating this story in some way. Not only did I play a part, I invested three and a half months of my life doing it!
I remembered the annoyance I felt toward some of the other actors in the production.
I remembered feeling annoyed at how the choreography had. To. Be. Perfect.
I remembered feeling like I wanted to quit. Walk away. Never come back.
I remembered the elation I had as the curtain pulled on the first night and how happy I was to be a part of this production.
You see, my experience wasn't all bad. Just mostly bad. Okay, looking back on it I made it worse than it really was. Seriously, six hours a week. That's nothing.
But then I started to remember a lot of details and explore how this story was depicted by us, a group of high school kids who, for the most part, were devoid of jaw-dropping talent to sing, dance, or act. I remembered how the kid that played Joseph was a tall, scraggly looking fellow who was embarrassed to go shirtless in the play so he wore white Under Armour during the shows. I remember how Potiphar had the most aggressive personality off-stage but when he needed to be aggressive on-stage he couldn't cower away from the limelight fast enough. I remembered how the kid that played Jacob couldn't have possibly been more disinterested in the role or the musical in general.
All of these things affected my reading of this. How I pictured it. How I felt it. When I read this story, I noticed that Jacob is a lot more active than I remember it being depicted in this musical. The brothers are a lot less important. Joseph is powerful in a convincing way as opposed to our Joseph who was powerful in a wholly unconvincing way. Indeed, I'm certain the twelve brothers could have kicked his butt, the guards on stage, and taken all comers off-stage too. There was no power to be had. There was nothing to fear. Let's not forget how ironic it was to sing about starving to death when everyone in the audience could tell I'd had more than my fair share to eat...
Okay, so it wasn't convincing or very good. But it's still our musical. It's still our rendition of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It's still the thing I think of when I read the Joseph narrative in Genesis.
What's my point? Well, simply this: our past lived experiences affect our readings in more or less ways when we encounter the Bible. This became true for me in an incredibly surreal and nostalgic way today when I read Gen. 41-50. .
Do I think remembering this event severely altered my reading of the text? Absolutely. I still think it's the best way for me to read it, too.
For further reflection: Do you think entertaining representations of biblical stories (such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Ten Commandments, or Veggie Tales) are good ways of introducing people to the text? What are the dangers associated with this?
For those who have never read this narrative, can you think of other stories that are similar to the Joseph narrative? Do you think your prior experience with those stories affected how you read this story?