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Thursday, September 30, 2010

What I'm Reading Today: Genesis 30-32

One of the things I LOVE about reading the sacred texts of our tradition consistently throughout one's life is that one's experience of the stories varies greatly over time – depending upon the things that happen to you in your life between readings. Each of those experiences greatly informs our subsequent reading of the text.

Take, for example, the work I've done on codependency over the past twelve months. In focusing on what it means to have healthy relationships (with one's Higher Power, with oneself, and with others), I've come to pick up on unhealthy things that I completely missed before.

Let me use a piece of today's story about Jacob as one example.

Since Jacob/Israel is one of the great patriarchs of the nation of Israel, I grew up reading the stories about Jacob/Israel making certain assumptions about the man. "Sure he participated in cheating his brother Esau out of his birthright," I would think to myself, "but it was part of a larger process that led to the establishment of the nation of Israel – so I guess his actions weren't all THAT bad." I never realized how deeply I was buying into the whole "the ends justify the means" argument, but I digress.

Today, however, as I was reading the portion of the text where Jacob is returning to his homeland and receives news about his brother Esau's approach, I had a sort of epiphany about Jacob.

When he was informed about Esau's approach, what was Jacob's first thought? Was it, "Boy, I did my brother wrong and he's still probably understandably angry with me; I need to figure out a way to apologize and make things right"?

Nope. That wasn't Jacob's response at all.

Instead, his first response was fear for himself. He then responded not by preparing an apology, but by dividing up his property so Esau couldn't destroy his belongings in one fair swoop. He then went on to strategize ways of trying to buy off Esau's acceptance. Not once in the early stages of receiving the news about his brother did Jacob ever step out of himself and think about the well-being of another. How frustrating!

The good news in the story – I suppose - is that God can still work through self-absorbed individuals like Jacob (and certainly at times myself) to accomplish great things. That good news, however, shouldn't completely trump a lesson buried within the text: don't be as self-absorbed as Jacob; look outside of yourself and have compassion/care for others.

Today I would invite you to find time and reflect on your ways of being in relationship with others. As you reflect on your ways of being in relationship with others ask yourself, "Is God able to be present in situations in which I'm present IN SPITE OF the ways in which I conduct myself; or is God's compassion/care for other evident BECAUSE OF the way I'm conducting myself?"

Til next time …

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