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Archive for July, 2014

Sisters

“Jacob loved Rachel . . . [but] when morning came, it was Leah!”  Genesis 29:15-28

Sister Wives.  Jacob fell head over heels with Rachel – love at first sight.  Laban, his uncle, promised that he could marry her as long as he promised to work for him for seven years.  So, Jacob agreed, and the wedding took place.  However, Laban hid Leah under the heavy veil, so that even in the dark, Jacob could not tell that his bride was not the one he intended.  When Jacob discovered the deception, Laban made the excuse that the oldest daughter is always married before the youngest (something I’m sure my younger sister would have NOT liked since she was married MANY years before I was!). 

As a result, Jacob had to wait a week AND promise to work for Laban for another seven years.  At last, he was able to have his Rachel.  Yet, all was not well in the Jacobean household.  Rachel had trouble getting pregnant, and Leah, the neglected (and unwanted) wife, was pregnant soon and often.  The two sisters were at odds with each other.  Eventually, when Rachel did become pregnant, a competition began to see who could produce the most offspring.

I think I relate to Leah quite well.  It’s not that I feel God blessed me or didn’t bless me more than anyone else.  (Pregnancy was a sign of God’s blessing, so Leah qualified.)  I always felt like the outsider.  As I have grown older and hopefully more wise, I believe that it was always a self-esteem issue.  Working on my self-esteem has brought me to a new understanding of God’s blessings, as well as the realization that comparing myself to anyone else is self-defeating.  I am me, and God made me the way I am.  I have grown in my relationship with God which then gives me a good grounding to stop the negative thoughts and reactions much more quickly.

Life has a way of toughening us up, and each time we come out of a negative situation, we are stronger on the other side.  We need to be cautious about not letting ourselves become too guarded and cynical, too.  Life in Christ can help us co-exist in this world with our brothers and sisters wherever they are.  At times, we may not have much to do with someone, but we can still treat them with respect and kindness (as hard as that might be).

Eventually, Rachel and Leah co-existed and supported each other.  Jacob, the once feisty and tricky fellow began to mellow and settle down (as any “good” patriarch is supposed to do, I guess!).  The huge family that was spawned became a great nation – the nation of Israel. 

My sister and I have grown much closer as we have grown up.  There are seven years between us, so we really didn’t know each other all that well.  It seemed like I was always into other things when she was little, and then as adults, we realized that we were missing something.  We have become close friends, and in spite of the fifteen hundred miles between us, we continue to rely on each other for support and love. 

Being sisters and brothers with all of God’s children can be challenging, but that is what we are called to be and do.  May we work at finding ways to co-exist together, connecting with our commonality rather than our differences.   

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Sister, Brother, Siblings

And the Lord said to [Rebekah], ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.'”  Genesis 25:23 NRSV)

Jacob and Esau even fought in the womb.  Their poor mother had to deal with their wrestling and fighting to the point that she wanted to die.  While it’s really uncommon for twins to have survived in that day and age, the point of this passage is more than just that the two brothers fought and there was sibling rivalry.  The point is that two nations were spawned from these twins, and even the nations fought – an etiological explanation.

However, there is something to think about in the sibling rivalry going on in the story of Jacob and Esau.  We can learn about our own relationships as well as church relationships.  Relationships are difficult, even with biological families, because they come out of different experiences and desires.  Most of the sibling rivalry stems from someone’s need to be more important than the other.  There is a genuine fear that “Mom will love you best.”  (Esau could definitely have claimed that, and it would have been true!  But then, Jacob could also say truthfully that Esau was Dad’s favorite.)

When families have dissention and do hurtful things to each other, somewhere along the line, healing and reconciliation could take place.  The question would be, “Who makes the first move?’  Maybe the second question is, “Will the other person accept the attempts at forgiveness and reconciliation?”  It’s hard to tell, and it depends on how deeply imbedded are the resentments and anger toward the other person.  Hopefully, at some point, folks remember that Jesus taught us to forgive and reconcile.  Wouldn’t it be good to become good listeners and find ways to “walk in the other person’s shoes” for a while so we can be more empathic?

It might be a good practice to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes to try to understand where they are coming from and how things in their lives are affecting them.  A little more compassion and kindness, listening and being a friend, or even just tolerance and shrugging off some things might be helpful in getting rid of sibling rivalry wherever and in whatever form we encounter it.

Sight Unseen

“And they called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.'” Genesis 24:58 (NRSV)

There is a new television reality show that is set to begin shortly about couples who let a matchmaker work to bring them together. The matchmaker interviews each person, and I’m sure they fill out a questionnaire of some kind to help in finding the right two people for each other. The catch is that the two people only meet on their wedding day when the bride comes into the place where they will be married.

Actually this is sort of what happened to Rebekah when Abraham sent his faithful servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. Abraham was adamant that Isaac should not marry a woman from the land of Canaan so the blood lines would remain “pure.” The servant traveled back to the area of Haran, and after a test he made up through praying to God for direction, Rebekah showed up at a well and passed every question on the exam.

The servant stayed at the home where he relayed the story about how he found Rebekah and how he knew she was the right woman. Apparently, the patriarchal leadership in Bethuel’s household included consulting with the women-folk because when the Abraham’s servant wanted to leave right away, the women begged him to hold off for a month. However, they consulted Rebekah, and she agreed to go immediately.

Imagine the courage it would have taken for her to say, “yes” and then to leave her family knowing she would probably never see them again! Yet, she apparently was a strong-willed young lady, and she was traveling with her nursemaid as well as other servants, so she wasn’t totally alone in her new destination.

Farther into the reading, we find that Isaac must have fallen in love with her immediately. We find nothing to say how Rebekah felt, but she would have known that she had married into a wealthy family. Also, Isaac seemed to be a rather calm and gentle soul, so she at least found someone who would treat her well. Right away, he took her to his deceased mother’s tent (Sarah) and made her the matriarch of the family.

This isn’t the usual way of doing marriage in our 21st century culture, but maybe there is something to be learned from it. I have thought about this many times, and a colleague and close friend of mine often lamented that church weddings would hold much more meaning to the couple if they were married in a civil ceremony first and then were married before God. Clergy have been made agents of the state, and many couples who rarely set foot in a church insist on having a “church wedding.”

It’s interesting that most of the couples at whose wedding I have officiated have a rich and varied history together. Many of them have lived together for a while (some for quite a while) before “tying the knot,” and some have had children together. Others have known each other for years, and still others don’t know each other well enough to consider marriage, but they get married anyway.

Is there a right way and wrong way? I don’t think so. Probably half of the marriages I have performed end in divorce in spite of my attempts to counsel and work with the couples before hand. Others just go through the motions so they can get to the wedding and most of all the reception. There are often not many surprises until their journey of marriage starts to move into the challenging part – staying in love and working through the tough times.

I will be curious to see how the new reality show works out. In spite of the fact that I met my husband on an internet dating site, and in spite of the fact that we were married six months after we met, we spent a lot of time together in between before we made the decision to marry. Both of us knew that we were headed for marriage within the first week, but we gave it some time to be sure (especially before letting my congregation in on our dating!).

Would I ever marry someone sight unseen? Doubtful. Would I marry someone whom God led me to? I did. We are still learning about each other, but it was the best thing I have ever done so far in my life. I pray that couples who make the choice to marry in this day and age won’t give up too easily when the going gets tough, and that they will begin to turn to God for guidance together and build their marriage by including God in it.

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