Once upon a time there was a man named Joseph. He wasn’t a Bible character, although he was named after one. He was an extremely ordinary guy and his life felt very small.
He was named after Joseph in the Bible stories he’d read–Joseph the son of Jacob the patriarch, the son with the coat of many colors. That Joseph had received dreams from God that told him his destiny and he had heard from God how to save God’s people and the whole world.
Ordinary-guy Joseph thought that would be cool of course. He had never even met anyone who heard from God that dramatically, let alone experienced it himself. He supposed only people in the Bible got to hear God like that. And only the people with an important role to play in the story.
The funny thing about ordinary-guy Joseph was that if history had been different, he might have been a prince. He was actually biologically descended from the dethroned royal family. Not everybody knew that about him. But other people had sinned long ago, and that kingdom had been lost. Now Joseph’s royal genealogy was just a funny piece of family trivia to be shared at dinner parties, nothing more. And it was safer not to share it too loudly. Things were so political these days.
Joseph had a blue-collar job in construction. He was working hard to make ends meet so he could get married. Times were tough, really tough, and this was about the most exciting thing he expected would ever happen to him. He would get married, have a few kids, and pray that life would be better for them someday than it was now.
Sometimes, when he had a few minutes of downtime at work, Joseph’s mind would wander to his namesake. He wondered what it would be like to have dreams from God and then be forced to spend years in Egypt, not knowing if or when or how you’d ever return, and then save your people. That wouldn’t be easy or fun, but it was meaningful. Significant.
And other times, Joseph’s mind wandered to wondering what his life would have been like as a prince. If history had been different. If other people’s choices hadn’t taken his destiny away. He didn’t suppose he would have been the king. He probably wasn’t the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son. But he would have had an important assignment of some kind, he was sure of that. Maybe he would have been the guardian of the crown prince, the little future king. Something like that.
But that wasn’t real life. And Joseph was content with real life, mostly. Content to love God and build a little house and marry the woman of his dreams. He was a good man, Joseph, and he was waiting until after the wedding to…
And then the woman of his dreams told him she was pregnant. Already.
He didn’t see it as an invitation to greatness.
He saw it as the death of one more dream.
Nobody would have believed the story Mary told him. Even Mary herself wouldn’t have believed it if somebody else had told her. If one of her friends or her sister had come to her and said, “I am still a virgin but I am pregnant by the Holy Spirit of God” would she have believed it? Was it any wonder that nobody else did?
It was unprecedented. There were no models. This had never happened before.
He was a good man though, ordinary-guy Joseph. The not-Bible-character Joseph. He might not be famous, but he was trying to be obedient. He wasn’t the kind of guy to ask “What do the rules say and how much am I allowed to hurt you for what you’ve done that’s hurt me?” He was the kind of guy to ask, “What can I do to honor God when my world is caving in? How can I love you well when it seems you never loved me after all? How can I hurt you the least when you’ve hurt me the most?”
He still loved her.
And then came the night that changed everything.
He was ordinary-guy Joseph. He was not-Bible-character Joseph. He wasn’t supposed to get dreams from God.
But that night he did.
He was a good man, ordinary-guy Joseph. He was the stuff princes were made of, dressed in a carpenter costume for life. Only heaven saw.
He only needed to know one thing. He only needed to know what God said about this. That was enough for him. He heard from God and he dove in with both feet. If he knew God had said it, he didn’t need to know how much it was going to cost him.
I’ll go with you, Mary. I will do this thing with you. I will believe you when nobody else believes you except me and God. I’ll do this thing that has never been done before. No matter what anyone says about you and no matter what anyone says about me.
He realized the weight of what she’d been carrying in her heart towards him: I’ve been carrying something from God that I expect will make you not want me anymore. I said “yes” to God about something I expect will make you reject me. I’ll never be the normal wife I think you wanted. It’s going to cost you so much to keep loving me now…
He wanted to rush in and contradict it. I never wanted normal. I only wanted you.
He was glad to have Mary back. But he hadn’t realized that she was inviting him into his destiny.
The weight of what he has being offered took his breath away. God trusts me with the woman He trusted with everything. I get to marry and take care of a woman who is trusted by God. That counted for something. It made him feel more like the prince he was born to be.
The dreams from God didn’t stop.
He woke up one day and realized that he was living out his name. Just like the Joseph he was named for, he had obeyed God and he was stuck in Egypt, with no way of knowing how or if or when he’d ever be able to come home or see his family again. Like the other Joseph, he had received dreams from God and they were coming true. The hard way. And he was obeying God and saving a baby who would save the people of God and the world. His life had become as exciting as a Bible story, all because he’d been willing to go down in history as “Mary’s husband.”
He also realized that he was living his birthright. He still looked like a carpenter on the outside, but he had been entrusted with royal responsibility. He was the guardian of the crown prince, the one with the all-important assignment of protecting and raising the future king. It was his secret with God that on the inside, everything about his destiny that had been stolen from him was being restored.
And only heaven saw.
And that was how ordinary-guy Joseph discovered he was a Bible-character Joseph after all.