31 07 2012

Dysfunctional families – they’re not a new phenomenon.  We see the damage done when Isaac and Rebekah play family favourites with their sons Esau and Jacob (documented in the book of Genesis). How many families have repeated the tragic pattern – Dad favours one child, Mum the other.  What does that do to self-identity, trust and family bonds?

In this case, the jostling for position begins with the twins in utero and there’s trickery, deceit and rivalry. (You can read all about it in Genesis chapters 25-35.) Jacob tricks Esau out of his birthright and the blessing of his father, which should have been afforded to him as the elder son.  Not surprisingly, Esau is not a happy bunny and plans to kill his brother.  However, Mummy’s boy Jacob runs away from home to save his skin.

That’s by way of preamble to set the scene for two later incidents that I’ve been thinking about.  The first comes soon after his exit from the family home.

As Jacob is on the run, he crashes down to sleep one night and dreams his famous “stairway to heaven” dream (Genesis 28:10-22). Make what you will of the dream; the comment that strikes me is this:

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16)

Some chapters of life later, Jacob is again alone at night.  This time it’s a wrestling match that’s on the programme, a monumental struggle that lasts until Jacob demands a blessing.  His unidentified opponent concedes, blesses Jacob and renames him Israel (which means “he struggles with God”). The deceiver becomes a wrestler. And just in case he should forget the experience, his hip is dislocated and he walks with a limp thereafter.

Jacob’s comment this time:

” I have seen God face to face…” (Genesis 32:30)

This section of Genesis is an important episode in the big picture Old Testament story of God’s dealings with his people but I’m drawn to a more personal reflection.

I’m left wondering about the fact that God may show up when we don’t expect him to. We may not even recognise him, but he comes to touch our lives and change us, whether we give permission or not.  We may struggle with him, as it were – fight our corner, try to get our way – but despite ourselves, he wants to bless us.  How does this sit with seeking him…mmm, that’s for another time.




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