This week's Adult Bible Study Guide meanders through the classic plot points of the Joseph story. The title, "Finding Rest in Family Ties," made me think it would focus on some connection between family and rest. Instead, with brief mentions of generational dysfunction those promised themes get left behind quickly as the lesson spotlights Joseph as Marvel-esque hero confronting danger, making the correct decisions, and ultimately beating the baddies.
"In prison, Joseph worked with the real, not the ideal. He networked; he helped others, even though relationships in prison were far from the ideal that he must have wished for."
Ah, yes, Joe, the young professional, handing out his business card, ready to rise. But then the lesson gets serious.
"Our relationships are miniature reflections of the great controversy between God and Satan that is raging through the ages."
I'm no expert, but I think a lot of arguments—familial or even political—are hard enough without giving them cosmic weight. Sometimes family controversies are really not that great. But then the lesson really got into some private business in a final list of discussion questions.
"Sister X has just joined the church. She is married to a nonbeliever. She loves her husband, but he doesn’t love the changes he sees in her. What would be your counsel, based on biblical principles, to your new church member?"
The thing is, the lesson offers no direct scriptural or Ellen White guidance here. No credential marital counselors are cited. Just some reader response time in Sabbath School. Whadaya think? Yikes!
Reading this brought up a memory of mine from a small church my family attended. As a pre-teen I remember overhearing some adults, in failed sotto voce, talking about my friends' mom. She was a Sister X—unequally yoked as they said. I remember feeling embarrassed for her and weirded out that they were all up in her business. I cannot imagine what someone like her might feel, a new member, studying her lesson or worse, sitting in Sabbath School this week, hearing this question posed. Gauche!
Enough of this. Thankfully, Bonnie Dwyer lifted my spirits by recommending a better resource on families and relationships: an issue of Spectrum from 1992. Here is then editor Roy Branson describing the topic and contents:
The Adventist family refers, first of all, to families who are Adventists. Our special section provides glimpses of Adventist families through the eyes of one daughter's poetry and another's short story, a son's reflection on masculinity, a mother's sociological analysis of teenage spirituality, and a spouse's theological/psychological essay on family systems.The Adventist family can, secondly, mean the family that is the Adventist Church. That family can be heard in other voices within this issue: a person with a disability giving her testimony, two academics debating the Adventist lifestyle, and several readers sharing their opinions.
This Sabbath, if you're looking for the rest of the story about family ties, this is a great resource. First, I recommend pouring a cup of gossip juice, scrolling down to page three and diving into this rollicking tale by Deborah Anfenson-Vance about a 14-year-old daughter, her disfellowshipped father, and her grandparents working at G.C. headquarters who all converge at the 1966 General Conference Session.
Here's an average Joe story that probes familial reality—ties that bind, for worse or better:
Few ministers were preaching grace when Daddy's local congregation disfellowshipped him for remarrying after a divorce. No one was making source-critical studies of the Spirit of Prophecy, or questioning its range of authority, when my dad told me he just couldn't buy into all this "Ellen White stuff." It was not yet fashionable to publicly air dirty church business or question the ethics of denominational leaders when my father began disburdening himself on the nepotism, inequity, and unprofessionalism he encountered working for the church organization in the late 1940s. My father had no credible community to support his contentions, so most of the time he kept them to himself.