Mfonobong Inyang: Celebrating and Inspiring Men Through the Story of Joseph
Movember is a series of conversations and events held every November to address a myriad of issues that men face. Whilst I was primarily inspired by Movember, the imperatives contained herein aren’t limited to my gender. Many people are going through a lot and I can relate, so I write as one who is touched by the feelings of your infirmities. This is no attempt to aspire-to-maguire my way out of the stark realities; I’m not here to give you hope without strategy or to anaesthetise you from the hard knocks you have been dealt with. I’d rather share insights that I trust will give you perspectives. Joseph’s story is most apposite because it’s layered with touchpoints that are crucial for contemporary living.
Joseph, A Dreamer
If anyone had told me that my dreams would put me in trouble, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so verbose in my younger days. This is the OT that Joseph didn’t get. He shared his dreams with those that should almost statutorily co-sign on his aspirations but they hated him more. You need to understand that misery loves company and your audacity to be different might be seen as a threat by those you have moved with all your life because, in some twisted way, they imagine that your success is their loss. They might not explicitly express it but their attitude to your big talk is giving, “How dare you!” On the flip, it was good that Joseph blabbed because God used the hatred of his brothers to move him closer to his destiny. Whether you choose to announce your dreams or keep them on the quiet, remember that they are valid either way.
Joseph, A Slave
His brothers had an evil plan to take Joseph out but they stopped short of actually killing him. Instead, they sold him off and also sold a dummy story to their father about his whereabouts. Joseph found himself in the house of Potiphar, who was head of the king’s guards in Egypt, the hegemony of its day. Notice, the love of Jacob, Joseph’s father, at best gave him a coat of many colours but the hate of his brothers brought him into proximity of his destiny. I’m not here to glorify slavery or any other unfortunate situation but specifically in Joseph’s case, that was his route to greatness. Life hardly makes sense to us in real-time, we only understand it when we later connect the dots. Most of our biggest breaks come on the back of personal adversity. A new nation often emerges from the crucible of despair because when people are united in their sufferings, they will speak in one language that transcends ethnicity, religion or partisan affiliations.
Joseph, A Prisoner
Joseph got his master to trust him to the point that whatever he said the inventory was, Potiphar took his word for it. It’s quite oxymoronic for a slave to be given freedom of oversight, Joseph was exceptional. However, light doesn’t just shine to dispel darkness, it inadvertently causes heat and occasionally attracts flies. His boss’ wife saw that one of Joseph’s love languages was acts of service, na so she wan add physical touch – she no wan let the poor boy breathe. I’m sure Joseph told Madam, “Mrs Potiphar, calm down!” May you never be tempted, na there you go know say there is a big difference between the gifts of the spirit and the fruits of the spirit.
If you ask me, Potiphar knew his wife was lying because Joseph had an impeccable character. He only imprisoned Joseph to save his face, that’s why Joseph ended up in the royal prison instead of one for common criminals or worse, the gallows. Establishments are terrible at taking Ls, they are the real sore losers. Even when they know you are innocent, they will screw you over. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent but they screwed him over with technicalities. It’s like Fury vs Ngannou, the judges announced one person as the winner via a curious split-decision but the other person was crowned the people’s champion. Ditto for the 2023 Ballon d’Or. Go and ask Saul, he sat as king but the people had a sworn loyalty to David. If e didn’t dey, e didn’t dey.
What happens when we get the opportunities we have craved for? Will we do it the right way or will we become the very things we once criticised? You know one of the saddest things in life? Many people who say they are oppressed today don’t hate oppression, they just hate being oppressed. Their dream is to replace their oppressors one day.
Joseph, An Economist
After helping his fellow inmates interpret their dreams, one of them would remember Joseph for his uncanny expertise when a particular Pharaoh – this refers to a cultural title for kings, not a personal nomenclature. That’s why later in the story another Pharaoh emerged who didn’t know Joseph – and had a disturbing dream which none of his wise men could deconstruct, Joseph didn’t need to pray before addressing the king. Do you know why? Prayer is great but prayer is not the master key. Prayer has a revelatory function but sound decision-making is a pre-condition for success and it’s a universal law that governs the material earth.
You cannot sell cocoa and then use prayer to become richer than the person selling chocolate; in deciding not to refine yourself or whatever you are offering, you have also effectively decided to operate at a lower level on the food chain. Joseph has the best of both worlds – he combines spiritual intelligence with sound economic management. This is the challenge most people of faith have. Some are too spiritual with little or no technical skills. Joseph did not use spirituality to mask his incompetence, talmbout, “I command this economy to experience exponential growth!” Instead, he decided to create a sovereign wealth fund and saved a chunk of the country’s gross domestic product.
Pharaoh’s reaction to Joseph’s submission is metaphoric of how first-world nations think; he put Joseph in charge based on merit. Conversely, third-world countries would have rejected Joseph’s appointment as prime minister simply because he isn’t from their ethnicity, religion or partisan cult. They would rather the economy sunk than allow a competent outsider to manage it excellently. I’m sure some intellectuals after listening to Joseph’s brilliant economic roadmap will come on Elon Musk’s X and say something like, “na statistics we go chop?” Woe betide any society that lacks imaginative leaders in times like these, there will be no tears to cry for them.
Joseph, A Messiah?
Judah, one of Joseph’s brothers, is the one who carries the pre-incarnate messiah in his loins but he doesn’t get enough PR for that which then makes Joseph look like the star of the story. Nonetheless, Joseph does manifest the signatures of a messiah. Joseph is easily the captain of Shege FC because my guy eyes don see things. Also, he’s relative to those he was called to redeem. When the famine drove everyone including his long-lost family to Egypt, he effectively redeems them from death and brings them into Goshen. Third, he’s touched by the feelings of their infirmities. Seeing the despondency on the faces of his brothers, who eventually bow to him as his childhood dreams suggested, broke him. He spoke nicely to them and gave them extra portions and royal whips to transport them home. He cried so hard that everyone in the palace became terrified because it was a rarity.
There are three powerful tests that men must pass just like Joseph did; Power, Money and Sex. People of faith know them as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Joseph didn’t abuse his power whether as chief steward in Potiphar’s house or as prime minister. He also didn’t mismanage money in both capacities. Joseph preferred jail time over betraying his master by sleeping with his wife. Interestingly, Jesus, the Messiah, also passed these three tests or temptations. Jesus was tempted to abuse his appetite or physical needs – sex is just a metaphor for all kinds of appetite – he refused to turn stone into bread. Jesus was tempted with power, he refused to jump down from a mountain and abuse his privilege as the son of God. Jesus was tempted with earthly riches, he refused to bow down and kiss the ring.
I know we haven’t always covered ourselves with glory but, trust me, to be a man is not a day job. The pressure is wild; most men would never publicly admit but it’s killing. So if you see me anywhere, just squeeze something for my hand. We gather dey for the matter.