Saturday, May 01, 2010


I thought I knew almost everything. By most measures I am a remarkably successful man. Look at my flocks, my herds, my family. Twenty years ago I ran away with nothing but my father’s blessing, my mother’s love, a stone for my pillow, and a vision of God that turned my heart inside out and gave me the courage to go on. Now, after a long time in the land my people came from, I am going back. I have kept my faith, I have used my wits, I have a wife I love with my whole being, and another who is a bearer of fine sons. Most would say I lack nothing. And yet ..

The closer I come to home, the clearer the memories grow. He was my brother, my twin, the one who shared the womb with me. We grew beneath my mother’s heart together, but even then there was no peace between our unformed selves. Already we were two nations at war, jostling for supremacy. And I could never let him win.
Oh, I wanted the birthright, don’t get me wrong, that strange hunger for the love of this God that I can neither see nor touch, has coiled and roiled in me for as long as I could remember. But now, and I can finally be honest now, how much of it was built from that secret place of the spirit, the faith-place, and how much was a determination to show Esau that it didn’t matter if he was our father’s favourite, I was going to be the favourite of the only One I knew who was greater than our father? I am ashamed to admit now how much of it, all the time, was about trying to best my brother. It wasn’t fair that he should have it all just because he had the muscles to push his way out the womb a moment before me!

All those years with Laban I had put it aside. But now, coming back, I began to remember, and finally face the fact that perhaps I had wronged my brother. And maybe he was angry. Maybe he had been angry all these years. And then I heard the news. Esau was coming with four hundred men! This was one time I couldn’t scheme my way out of trouble. I did what I could, dividing everyone and everything into two groups, in the hope that some might escape, and sent them on their way, and then I waited. Alone with my fear and my God I waited. And a man came, for I must call him a man, and, how strange it seems, we looked at each other wordlessly, and began to wrestle. Strength for strength we were: my faith and His reality, his holiness and my determination to break through, to find a way to bend God to my will and make my life comfortable again. But as the night wore on I saw my sin against Esau grow blacker and blacker, and the quality of my wrestling changed. It did not matter if my whole world fell apart, if every scheme I had ever schemed should coil undone, if I was nothing and naked, vulnerable to my brother’s rightful wrath. Only one thing mattered: that I should not die unblessed. I had stolen my brother’s blessing, but now I must have my own, for apart from the blessing of God everything else is finally vanity and dust. And in the end disabled, I cried out my need and he gave me back my life. I have met the unknowable God, and yet I live.

Today he shall come. My brother, in whose eyes I must appear as traitor and thief. And I shall meet him without terror, for I have seen my shame and I was conquered by mercy; my body limps and my heart is singing, for I have met the one who holds my life in his hands, and I have tasted his holy forgiveness. It is enough.

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