We are a people who are not very good at complexity any more. We want to boil things down to the basics, to get down to the one thing we're supposed to recognize or know about anything. "Spare me the details," we say, with one hand raised in a "stop" motion; in other words, just tell me what I need to know.
As if everything in the world can be boiled down to one big truth in the midst of a thousand little details. One important thing and a bunch of unimportant stuff. One lesson...and a lot of distractions.
That's what we call them - the details of the story. They are distractions. They are things that we think take us away from what we're supposed to be paying attention to.
But what if the details are the story?
We do this with Bible stories all the time. We simplify them down to what we think we're supposed to understand about them, one big truth that we think we're supposed to take away.
Noah was faithful and obeyed God even before he could see the rain coming.
David was brave and stepped forward to fight the giant.
Moses was curious and came to the burning bush to discover more of God.
Peter was bold and stepped out on the water.
We do this with pretty much everything we read, boiling it all down to one thing we are supposed to learn, to do, to become, to incorporate into our own faith. And in doing so, we often miss the threads that run throughout the Scriptures that show us the way that God weaves things together. We miss the connecting points and the places where stories tie in. We miss the nuance and while we think we know what we're supposed to learn, we miss so many layers of what a story means.
Then we live what feel like isolated lives, separated from the stories of others and the stories of God. When we don't see how the stories we know tie in, how are we ever supposed to see how ours do? When we don't understand the deeper meaning behind a trial or a trouble in a story we try to imitate, how can we understand the deeper meaning of our own trials and troubles?
The Bible is full of tiny little details that you'll miss if you're not looking for them - and sometimes, you'll miss them even if you are. Stuff we read right past again and again and again as we engage what we think the story is or is supposed to be.
But once one of these things jumps out at you, you can't un-see it. Once you notice it, it stops you in your tracks. At least, it does me.
It happened to me last week. I was reading a book that was telling a Bible story, and it was telling it just exactly the way that the Bible tells it -nothing special. Not drawing particular attention to the thing I'd been missing (and the thing I think a lot of persons have been missing because I've never heard anyone preach on this one, and I'm telling you - this would preach). Yet, it jumped off the page at me anyway and stopped me in my tracks.
This one little detail that doesn't seem important, that doesn't seem like anything, is something. And of course it is because God names it in His Word.
Come with me to the story of Joseph....