A Spoonful of Sugar
Jacob Meets Rachel
Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field and three flocks of sheep lying there beside it; for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.
Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” He said to them, “Do you know Laban son of Nahor?” They said, “We do.” He said to them, “Is it well with him?” “Yes,” they replied, “and here is his daughter Rachel, coming with the sheep.” He said, “Look, it is still broad daylight; it is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son; and she ran and told her father.
When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he ran to meet him; he embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month.
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
“So that you may be justified in your words,
and prevail in your judging.”
But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!
God has a cure for the sin that so readily ails and breaks us. Forgiveness gives us a chance to start anew, but the corruption of sin still stands at our door. Life itself will teach us the folly of our self-centered ways if we live long enough to experience the consequences. Names go down in history for both the good and the bad, and if we were truly wise, we might learn how to live just by observing life itself.
My favorite example of this is the testimony of Brother Lawrence, a wounded French soldier in the 1600’s who had a moment of conversion seeing a barren tree in the dead of winter. He knew that spring would bring new life to that tree, and he dedicated his life to serving the God that brings new life to us all. He served out the remainder of his days working in the kitchen of a Carmelite priory in Paris. If only I had been wise enough to turn my life over to God that easily! Unfortunately, I am a much slower learner.
Just like Jacob, our own misdeeds come back to haunt us, but we are not left fending for ourselves. God’s love does not usually remove those consequences altogether, but He always carries us through them. Indeed, there is a special kind of redemption in the suffering – a bit of sugar that helps the medicine go down, if you will. As all acts are contagious to the perception of those around us, evil deeds, particularly ones that go unpunished, teach us all that we can get away with wrongdoing and that wrongdoing is essential to getting ahead in life. The bad attitudes and acts spread like a sickness. However, the act of suffering ourselves and leaning on God as our strength shows the opposite witness, especially when such suffering is not the direct consequence of our own action (although that has a particularly good kind of witness as well). The best kind of witness is when we simply suffer living in a messed up world, whose mess we have contributed to ourselves from time to time, and when we can show others how we seek God as our comfort in those times.
That suffering changes us. It brings our true priorities into focus and exposes any faults there may be in them. As God allows us to suffer in the brokenness, He gives us the opportunity to experience it for what it really is: creation separated from its loving creator, children separated from their loving father. We can know the destruction of sin with our mind, but it is a completely different thing to experience it in our lives, and in doing so it helps us to identify with Jesus and to see other people the way that He did.
The medicine we take to rid our lives of sin and rebellion against God can be difficult, even painful at times. The spoonful of sugar that God gives us is the grace of His presence with us through the trial, testing us not so God can find out what we are made of, but so we can find out what God has created us to be.
Where do you wish you were feeling God’s presence more in your life?