The Backstory is the Story

On Sunday, I met with the junior high Sunday school class.  We’ll celebrate our nine sixth graders at the Coming of Age service February 4.  One of the ways we prepare together is through study and discussion of that morning’s Bible story. 

Because the junior highers requested we also declare that day Pajama Sunday, I thought the text should include something sleep-related.  So we’re going with Genesis 37 – the young Joseph’s dreams about his brothers bowing down to him, and the fallout that resulted.  It’s a packed chapter that starts with Joseph’s coat of many colors from his father Jacob, and ends with Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, with plenty of drama in between.

But it’s hard to understand what’s going on in Genesis 37 without knowing the backstory of Jacob’s own sibling rivalry and the conflicts between the mothers of Joseph’s brothers.  So we started the class by creating a family tree, starting with Abraham and Sarah, through Isaac and Rebekah, on to Jacob and his brother Esau.  Jacob has children through four women in a power struggle narrated in Genesis 30 that reads like a comedic – and painful – tale of one-upwomanship. 

Not surprisingly, we spent over half the class time reviewing the backstory before getting to Genesis 37.  Which felt about right.  Sometimes the backstory is the story.  Or at least a big part of it.  Maybe taking time to understand backstories better enables us to change the direction of the story we find ourselves in.