As Adam Hamilton points out in his book entitled, Faith, Christmas Through the Eyes of Joseph, we learn that the Bible directly tells us very little about Joseph. He was a carpenter (tekton), most probably using wood and not stone. He was not an architect or someone with many others working under him, but probably one who worked alone. Customarily, he would have his sons work with him when they got to be 10 years old or thereabouts. Jesus, being the earthly son of Joseph, would have thereby learned how to make doors, shutters, basic furniture pieces for the house, handles to tools and yokes for oxen, as instruments of the local farmers to use. He might have been what we would today call a “handyman”, along with being a carpenter.
Not only does this fill in what Jesus’ life might have looked like and been influenced by in his first 29 years of his life, but it also makes sense that Jesus, like all of us, would have taken in some of who Joseph was, how his characteristics and mannerisms might have been, and that parts of Jesus may truly tell us more about Joseph than when you simply read the few words about him in the Gospels.
What I found most helpful in the first two chapters of Hamilton’s book is the relationship making of father to child that Hamilton brings out in his own questions. He is right to point out that whether we have a strong or weak, good or bad, lasting or non-existent relationship with our fathers, that relationship critically affects who we become and to how we may see God, when looking at God in father-like way. Indeed, it is extremely hard to look at God as father when abuse, abandonment, and other atrocities of life are connected with one’s father. For both men and for women, this is true. How your father has affected your life, is something we all may have asked ourselves over time….but how it has affected our relationship and view of God is another thing all together. I would bet that many have never even thought about it.
Our own father and our relationship is not a “tell all”, nor something that we cannot overcome and deal with so that our relationship with God can stand on its own. It may be, though, a reason to think over if you or a loved one has a problem seeing God as a fatherly or a motherly part of your life. All humans have put human characteristics to a God that we believe in but have never seen, let alone been able to know as we know other human beings or other creations of God in the animal kingdom. Let’s face it, sometimes I think I know the personality of my dog, Maggie, better than I do God’s personality. Being able to critically think through and then pray about these things, I believe will aid us all in then being free of stereotypes, and will allow us to continue on a better path with God and the relationship we wish to have with God over time. It may also help us to be better at saying to our children, “This is me, not God, not any other father or mother…just me, my child, just me.”
May we each find that perfect place in knowing God for God, while finding ourselves and others as each just one creation of our Lord, imperfect in some ways, more perfect in others, but always God’s beloved. Amen.