The Race That Knows Joseph

“They’re our kind of people,” Julie said.
It’s the sort of phrase that could be cruel. It could be unkind, exclusive, evasive. But the way she used it, it was none of those things.
“Couple on Two Benches”
George Segal
Source: Sculpture.org
She was referring to what Anne Shirley, as a child, called “Kindred Spirits.” Later, when she grew up, she adopted the term her friend Miss Cornelia used, “The race that knows Joseph.” I have no idea where L.M. Montgomery came up with that phrase. I presume she is referencing one of the biblical Josephs, but I honestly don’t know. I only know that she somehow found the perfect description for “our kind of people.”
The race that knows Joseph are actually a fairly broad and diverse lot. They like all kinds of different things. There does tend to be a bookishness about them, but they’re not limited by those books. There are scientists, athletes, English professors, historians, sea captains, and doctor’s wives…all who belong to the race that knows Joseph.
It’s a bit of an intangible descriptor. There are, after all, two biblical Josephs. I think an argument could be made for either one to be him who is referenced. The Old Testament Joseph, Jacob’s son – he of the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat – was a dreamer and an old soul. He was a gifted manager and strategic planner. Through his life he learned to see the big picture and to glimpse things from God’s perspective. I’d wager this is the Joseph that Montgomery’s Miss Cornelia is referring to, but I often wonder if maybe, just maybe, it’s the other one.
The other Joseph, the New Testament Joseph, of the house and line of David, is a quieter character than the Dream Coat Joseph. We only get a few chapters’ worth of glimpses into this Joseph – who also had a father named Jacob – but they are telling glimpses. He is a man who speaks with angels. A man who rises up and takes his pregnant fiancée into his home, marrying her despite the whispers of the people around them. He is a man who raises a Child he knows is not his own, a Child whose depth and wisdom are confounding to the carpenter. He works hard, and – it seems – he dies early, before seeing how the Boy he raised turned the world upside down.
I think both Josephs would be “our kind of people.” I think they both would find that chord of resonance with the other. But Technicolor Joseph would be up front leading the group, laying out the plan of events, and Carpenter Joseph would be working hard behind the scenes.
Whichever Joseph it is that we know, “our kind of people” all know him.

“You’re young and I’m old, but our souls are about the same age, I reckon. We both belong to the race that knows Joseph, as Cornelia Bryant would say,” said Captain Jim.

“‘The race that knows Joseph?’” puzzled Anne.

“Yes. Cornelia divides all the folks in the world into two kinds– the race that knows Joseph and the race that don’t. If a person sorter sees eye to eye with you, and has pretty much the same ideas about things, and the same taste in jokes–why, then he belongs to the race that knows Joseph.”

“Oh, I understand,” exclaimed Anne, light breaking in upon her. “It’s what I used to call–and still call in quotation marks ‘kindred spirits.’”

“Jest so–jest so,” agreed Captain Jim. “We’re it, whatever it is. When you come in to-night, Mistress Blythe, I says to myself, says I, ‘Yes, she’s of the race that knows Joseph.’ And mighty glad I was, for if it wasn’t so we couldn’t have had any real satisfaction in each other’s company. The race that knows Joseph is the salt of the airth, I reckon.”*

*Montgomery, L.M. Anne’s House of Dreams. New York: Bantam Books, 1992. p. 38. (©McClelland and Steward Limited, 1922.) 

 

The Blind Writer

I had a professor once who said, “The writer is the one who points and says, ‘Look.’” I’ve internalized that idea so deeply that I can no longer recall who said it – the words are now mine, and I repeat them from time to time when I’m called upon to say what it is I do – I point. I say, “Look.” I write.
Monday was, as Anne Shirley so appropriately described, “a Jonah day.” It started with misplacing my phone before work and having to leave without it, continued through ordering the wrong drink at the coffee shop, realizing I forgot my lunch, discovering a project at work hadn’t been completed, speaking sharply to a coworker, apologizing to said coworker, learning no contact had been made with a prospect for a book endorsement when I had requested it two weeks earlier…the list goes on. Through it all I was working on the tedious task of implementing proofreading notes on a book manuscript. I left work at the end of the day, having told my roommate I would text her when I was on the way so she could put the rice on, only to realize that was impossible without a phone, and dinner would consequently be twenty minutes later for my hungry belly.
I found myself in the car, weeping, crying out to God and asking Him why I hadn’t realized I’d been cruel to my coworker, kicking myself for how I handled it all, angry that I hadn’t followed up on the missed pieces sooner, wracking my brain to figure how I would finish all the work on the manuscript before the deadline.
Even Anne’s perfect description for my day, when it came to me as I drove, gave me no comfort. Along with it came her other thought on the topic: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” It’s that little word at the end that’s the problem: “yet.” It mocked me: “You’ll just do it all again tomorrow.”
The tears clouded my eyes; the thoughts crowded my mind. I ached at my own sinfulness and I couldn’t see a way out of it. The writer was blind. In such a state, how could she point? How could she look?
And then a new song started on the CD. It began with quiet strings and piano before Andrew Peterson’s voice began to gently prod,
Behold the Lamb of God
Who takes away our sin
Behold the Lamb of God
The life and light of men
Behold the Lamb of God
Who died and rose again
Behold the Lamb of God who comes
To take away our sin
“Behold.” Look.
My mind would wander back to the troubles of my Jonah day and AP would point again with that word, “Behold.”
Over and over again the phrase repeats in the song: “Behold the Lamb of God.” Look at the Son of God, Emmanuel, the hope of man. When the song ended, I went through again and again. “Behold.” Do not look elsewhere. Keep your eyes on the Lamb. Will you sin again tomorrow? Yes, and the Lamb of God will take away that sin, too. “Behold.”
When the writer is blind, who will point and say, “Look”? The voices of the prophets, of the musicians, of the artists, of all those who have beheld the Lamb and come to Him with their broken hearts, fallen far away from Him, only to see them renewed and restored by the One who died and rose again – they will echo together the call of John the Baptist, pointing and saying, “Look.”

To hear Andrew Peterson’s song “Behold the Lamb of God,” click here.