Falling and Recovery
The Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob1
These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,
“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.”
When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Esau Sells His Birthright2
Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
The Parable of the Sower3
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”
No family goes and grows with a 100% success rate, by any standards. Within any particular group you will find a leader, a facilitator, and an agitator… and in groups bigger than three people, there will be more than one of each. The leaders take responsibility. The facilitator’s negotiate to keep things going smoothly. The agitators make sure everyone keeps moving and growing. It takes all types.
What do you do as the parents of twins that are fighting with each other from the day of their birth? When you can’t please everyone because everyone can’t seem to agree on what they want, what do you do? Isaac and Rebekah picked their favorite child and ran with it. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they didn’t didn’t pick the same child, so instead of one person being left out, the split resonated up through their own relationship. Having a “black sheep” of the family is hard enough to deal with, but what happens the family cannot agree on how to handle them. Disciplining the children is one of the big causes of divorce in families and the story of Isaac s family shows us why.
Jesus taught that not every heart we share God’s love with will be ready and able to receive it. But that fact didn’t stop Him and it shouldn’t stop us. God loves us out of an eternal abundance. He will never run out of love for us. If we love like Jesus, with the love of Jesus, we won’t run out either because we can always go back for more.
So, how do we deal with our family members that just don’t quite fit the mold, and some days seem like they never will? We show them the full measure of what grace is at home. We speak the truth in love winning them over with gentleness, not harshness. Even in cases where there is abuse in relationships, I find it helpful to think of the needs of the other person. Allowing them to mistreat you or others in the family is not only unacceptable to the victims, it creates an environment that accepts the abuser, not as the child of God they are, with potential for good, but simply becomes tolerance for them with an often unspoken belief that they will never change. In fact, it becomes tempting for the victims of that abuse to begin comparing themselves to their abuser – that they are so much better than them, or in some of the worst cases, that they somehow deserve it, because they are worse than their abusers. In either case, the Christian home is not a place for comparing ourselves to each other.
In some of the most healthy families, we are not only able to give those struggling members a safe and healthy home in which to find grace in the midst of their struggle, but we are able to learn from them as well. Without challenge, without those agitator personalities, we get stagnant and stop growing ourselves. They also broaden our perspectives. It is often these agitator folks who develop a passion for taking God’s grace outside the home and sharing it with people and families that do not have it, because they can identify with the struggles themselves. Remember, Jesus Himself was seen as a black sheep in His own family!
Where have you felt that you did not quite fit in?
Who are the those in your family that need extra grace?
How can you ask for and share that grace that you have received?