I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Joseph, Technical Dream Coat and all! I am named after him, so I grew up listening to his story with rapt attention. Joseph’s story was always compelling to me because he was a beloved son who just didn’t know when to shut up. He had a tendency to put his foot in his mouth, even when he was saying good things, and he would go over the top and upset people. I’ve been that guy. Many times. Embarrassingly so.
Joseph’s story is filled with tragic circumstances, a cautionary tale that just because you do everything right that things don’t always work out the way you hoped or intended. Joseph was a straight arrow kind of guy who worked hard and had strong integrity and yet he continued to find himself in increasingly challenging situations. Those circumstances became a gauntlet that measured him and a vehicle by which he found himself in just the right place to save his family when famine struck the region and endangered all those he cared about. Instead of becoming bitter and jaded by his situation and the flagrant injustice of what had happened to him, Joseph saw the intention and direction his life was moving towards and saw what good he could be in the place he had ended up.
“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’ So they sent word to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.’ When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said. But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:15-21 NIV)
Adventure in roleplaying games tends to center around terrible things happening to the people playing the game and fighting against those circumstances. Many adventures or quests start by thrusting the players into incredibly unjust circumstances. Throwing players in prison and taking away their resources emphasizes just how unfair things can be. The Lord of the Rings starts by thrusting two poor hobbits into incredibly unfair circumstances, yet they prove to be just the ones who need to be there at the very end. There is something poetic and powerful about people being thrown into conditions well beyond their natural ability to deal and having to rise above. For some it means having your story take an unexpected detour. In Joseph’s life, his undesired detour meant life for his family and for the entire ancient Middle East. It’s a powerful narrative, could your circumstances be merely a piece of a deeper story that is still in the telling?