We’re in church so I can tell you my shameful secrets and y’all can’t judge me on them. Sometimes when I go to the gym they show Dr. Phil or other daytime self help shows. It is like a train wreck. You start watching these shows and all these crazy folks come on. Their problems make you feel better, cause their problems are not yours.
I do think that there is some kind of good happening. If not for people like Dr. Phil in this world so many folks would not have access to any kind of therapy or counseling. Lord, knows we got a nation full of stressed out, over-worked, disenfranchised, folks teetering on the poverty line that could use a little bit of help to stay sane.
Life puts an incredible about of stress on families. The family is a support system for life’s stress as much as it is a stressor in our lives. Family just might be the most complex, dynamic, and important thing we have going for us as divinely inspired creatures of God. With a diversity of family that matches the diversity of Gods fearfully, wonderfully woven fabric of life.
This week I was studying our text from Genesis [37 & 50], the story of Joseph, and was wondering how much good would have come out of a meeting between Dr. Phil, Joseph, and his family. I imagine it would have gone a little something like this…
Dr. Phil- I’d like to welcome our next guest, Joseph Ben Israel. He’s the thirty-something Prime Minister of Egypt. He was the favorite son of Israel, also known as Jacob, and Rachel. His father gave him an amazing Technicolor dream coat that his brothers were jealous of. Joseph was also sold in to slavery by his brothers when he was just a kid. He was accused of attempted rape and thrown in to prison. In prison he experienced a lot of hardships. While in prison he got connected with the Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker. Joseph helped them out by interpreting some dreams the Pharaoh had and was released from prison and became the Prime Minister of Egypt. What a story! [The crowd cheers wildly.] Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, Joseph Ben Israel.
Joseph comes on stage. He is wearing a very fine Brooks Brothers suit. He has gold rings, gold cuff links, and a few gold chains. He is a dapper fellow.
Dr. Phil- Welcome, Joseph. You have an incredible story. You are the Prime Minister of Egypt. You are a successful businessman and entrepreneur. Your brothers sold you in to slavery. How does that feel?
Joseph- It’s cool. I actually saw my family last year, for the first time in almost twenty years. There was this epic drought and all of their livestock died and the crops failed they had nothing left. They came to the city to buy some food. I noticed them immediately and had no clue who I was. I helped them out and gave them food and made sure they had to come back and bring my little brother, Benjamin. It was great to see them all again, considering what all went down and all.
Dr. Phil- How’s that working out for you? Your brothers sold you in to slavery. We know how it ended and all. Have you ever thought about what if you had not made it out of prison?
Joseph- I had a lot of angry nights. I felt betrayed by my brothers when they sold me off. Then I got sent to prison. Prison is not a theme park. It’s prison. It’s NO TOV. I did make it out of prison and I am Prime Minister now. It’s all good.
Dr. Phil- Let’s bring out Joseph’s family. Here with us today are Joseph’s brothers Ruben Ben Israel and Judah Ben Israel. [The crowd hisses, boos, and cheers.]
The brothers Ruben & Judah come out on stage. They both are wearing western wear, the jeans, boots, and fancy pearl-snaps of ranch hands. They are obviously working men, all polished up for this show.
Dr. Phil- Welcome to you both. Tell me about all of this. Why’d you sell your brother in to slavery?
Ruben- I was uncomfortable with all of this. But the others were persuasive. Growing up there was always animosity between us kids. There were twelve of us growing up. All of us fighting for dad’s attention. Everyone knew Joseph was dad’s favorite. Dad never hid this from any of us. Joseph got all kinds of special attention. All kinds of gifts. The best foods. The best cloths. The best of everything.
Judah- There was that stupid Technicolor dream coat that dad gave Joseph. Joseph wore it everywhere. It didn’t matter if it was in the middle of summer Joseph wore that coat. He mocked us with it. It screamed, “I’m better than you.” And if that coat was not enough, Joseph would come out in to the fields and not work. He’d just hang out there and spy on us. He’d run back home and tell dad what we did. We could not do anything fun with Joseph around.
Dr. Phil- This ain’t my first rodeo, fellas. I get that your kid brother was favored and he was annoying and all. Why plot against him?
Ruben- The plot started off to kill, Joseph. I put a stop to that. It was Judah’s idea to sell him off to some traders. We just could not take his smug attitude anymore. Something had to change. It was nothing personal. We never stopped loving him as our brother.
Judah- Besides we threw him in to a pit and had lunch. We talked about the plan but never got to pull it off. While we were eating lunch some other fellas found Joseph and pulled him out of the pit. They sold Joseph in to slavery, not us. We did not do anything.
Dr. Phil- You can put feathers on a dog, but that don’t make it a chicken! You may not have sold Joseph in to slavery but you darn well intended to! You give me two pounds of woulda, shoulda, coulda and I’ll show you one pound of intention. Do you really believe that you’re absolved of this crime against Joseph because you did not actually do it? You put him in the pit in the first place. I understand the frustrations with Joseph being the favorite. It had to be tough growing up with so many siblings. The tension between all the wives had to be unbearable. I bet y’all got along well out in the fields, away from the politics of family. Joseph mucked all that up. He broke your trust. He tattled on you and took away your safe space. But he was a kid.
Joseph- I was a kid, Dr. Phil. I am very sorry that I took advantage of this situation. If I could go back and not do what I did I would. I regretted not enjoying my brothers back then. I mourned the loss of my family everyday. In slavery, in prison, and as Prime Minster I missed my family. Even with the thought of them having delivered me in to bondage I missed them. I miss my father, my mother, my brother Benjamin, and even Ruben, Judah, and the others. That is part of why I forgave them and was moved to help them as I have. There came a point where I needed to decide if I was going to be right, or I was going to be happy. I chose happy and I am pleased I have.
[The crowd applauds Joseph’s words. Tears roll down checks. Conviction is shared across the aisles. Memories of broken or hurting relationships fill minds. Hearts are softened as the show concludes and goes to commercial break.]
Dr. Phil- What is family? Family can be biological. Family can be coincidental. Family can be intentional affinity. Family can be lost or gained, expanded or contracted. Families have continuous boarders and at times those boarders are protected. Family is complex. Joseph and his brothers are one of many amazing stories of family. We all have experienced some kind of family drama. We all may not share the same structure of family. Dads, moms, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, and spouse all become threads in the fabric of our life. Some threads are longer than others. Some threads are brighter in the moments. Other threads last longer than others. But all these threads make up our family. Our family connects and witnesses to the story of this State. The story of this Nation. The story of God’s People. Family is the story of us all.