Read Genesis 37:1-4 We are all familiar with the story of Joseph: the coat of many colors, the doting father, the jealous brothers. He was left for dead in a pit, sold into Egyptian slavery and went on to save the very brothers who discarded him. That\'s it in a nutshell, or is it?
In our text, we learn that Joseph is only seventeen years old. He is a teenage boy, loyal to his father, and probably a tad bit spoiled. We learn that he gives his father a bad report of his brothers. In most adaptations of the Joseph story, the brothers are demonized from the very beginning and Joseph is portrayed as an innocent young lad. Some of the early church fathers suggest that we learn of Joseph\'s age to illustrate just how extraordinary he was as a youth. I beg to differ with this centuries old interpretation of a little detail: “Joseph, being seventeen years old (…).”
For the modern day reader, I think we can imagine that Joseph\'s age was an indication of his immaturity. Although, he had long since reached the Jewish age of adulthood, he did not truly understand the complexity of his situation. He was the favored son and to make matters worse, he was a tattle tell and know it all. He flaunted his coat of many colors, carelessly shared dreams of his future power and took full advantage of the favor he held in his father\'s eyes. But God used his immaturity and character flaws to do extraordinary things with his life. In fact, it was through his boasting that he made his way to fulfill his destiny in Egypt.
I ran into an old friend this weekend. We talked for quite awhile. I gave him what I thought were words of encouragement, “You have so much to offer. God wants to use you.” He smiled and then gently reminded me that God was looking to use those with nothing to offer. He was right! I stood corrected. It is in those areas of our life where we are lacking, where zero talent exists, and knowledge is scarce, that God often uses us in unimaginable ways.
If God had left it up to Joseph to make it to Egypt to become a great ruler there, it is likely, he would never have made it. Instead, God used Joseph's arrogant, know-it-all attitude to seal his destiny. Given that, should we abandon all attempts to address our bad habits and form better ones? Should we be content in our ignorance? No, but we should be aware that God will use us mid-process and may do great things with us even as we move from ignorance to knowledge, from immaturity to great wisdom!
Lord, I thank you that I am a work-in-progress. You are not finished with me yet, but You can use me even in this unfinished state. Let me be a part of your work in the world as you work on me. Amen.
About the Author: Ronya-Lee LaVaune Anderson-Thompson holds a Master’s of Divinity from Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. She also holds a B.A. in Dance and a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Maryland at College Park. A former member of the Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble, and guest artist with Dance for All Youth Company in Capetown, South Africa, Ronya-Lee has traveled extensively teaching, dancing, and choreographing. She has performed lead roles in productions at the Arena Stage, Ford’s Theater, the National Theater, the Kennedy Center, and Dance Place. Her choreography has been presented at the Publick Playhouse, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, THEARC, the Atlas Theater, the Harman Center and in churches throughout the United States, South Africa and Ecuador. She conducts workshops annually throughout the United States and has also created sacred dance curriculum for various ministries and organizations. Ronya-Lee is an adjunct artist with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. She currently serves as Artistic Director for Dancing by the Power: Movement Matters, a non-profit sacred dance organization. Every summer since 2006, Ronya-Lee has led seminars on the art of sacred dance for the Duke Youth Academy in Durham, North Carolina and most recently led workshops on Dance and the Spirit for over 2000 youth during a Youth Convention at Purdue University in Indiana. You can find me on the web at http://letthebodyspeak.com/