Gen. 25.20-34 & Matthew 13.1-9, 19-23...a Reflection
Durrell Watkins, DMin
The parable in the gospel reading comes with its own explanation. Some of us hear a word of hope and healing, and it sounds good and we are thrilled to hear it, but we can’t really commit to it yet. It got us excited in the moment, but we haven’t had a shift in consciousness, so no real change takes place.
Some of us hear a word of hope and healing, and it is very encouraging, but we can’t really pursue it because we allow ourselves to be immediately distracted by the obstacles and challenges. We keep our focus on what is wrong rather than allowing ourselves to pursue a path of liberation.
But some of us hear a word of hope and healing and we embrace it, internalize it, own it, try to live it, begin to grow into it, and that word that sinks into our subconscious mind becomes part of us and transformation takes place.
This isn’t really three kinds of people, but most people at different stages in their lives. But we can always work toward becoming the people who are rich soil receiving the seeds of empowerment and liberation and allowing those seeds to take root.
Without going into ancient inheritance practices and the reasoning behind them, and beyond the acknowledgement that the Genesis story is a myth of origin creatively weaving a story around geo-political tensions, I think we can look at the story as symbolic for realities in our own lives.
Esau isn’t aware of what he is really worth. Sacred value is the birthright we each have inherited, but we have traded it for dogmas and creeds, biblolatry and traditions, giving away healthy self-esteem for the temporary satisfaction of being told we are morally superior to an imagined “other” or that we have reservations at the heavenly banquet hall. By not believing in our innate goodness, we settle for comforts which cannot endure and then often become angry when others have dared to search for meaning beyond our inherited paradigm.
Jacob also doesn’t realize his inherent dignity and sacred value. He believes he has to scheme, cheat, lie, or steal from someone else in order for him to have what he needs to feel good about himself. Just as Esau gives his self-esteem away too easily and then is furious that others find meaning in ways other than he has thought to pursue, Jacob believes the only way he can matter is to take away someone else’s dignity, hope, or opportunity. They both make painful mistakes because they don’t realize that just as they are they have potential and merit and their lives are full of opportunities for discovery and expression.
Later Jacob will claim the gift he conned Esau out of by disguising himself as Esau. He has to lie and hide and pretend to be something he isn’t. This closeted experience is not fulfilling. He doesn’t really get a blessing because he spends the next several years hiding and running and suffering the pain of regret. One can never be truly blessed by living a lie.
While Esau is willing to sell his value, and Jacob is so unaware of his that he is willing to steal someone else’s in order to feel valued himself, the fact remains they are twins. They share origins. They share history. They are connected. They part of a larger whole. They are equal, even while each is unique. Neither trading nor conniving is necessary … they are both threads in the sacred tapestry of life.
Isaac also suffers from “not-enough-ness.” He suffers from the delusion that he has only one blessing to give. His scarcity mentality has convinced him that he is limited in what he can share. He is rich enough to have an heir, but even at that he doesn’t realize how blessed he really is. He has two children to love, two with whom to share his best gifts. He has more to give than he knows and more people to share his gifts with than he is willing to acknowledge. Like his sons, he doesn’t get how blessed he really is, and not realizing how blessed he is, he also can’t realize how many blessings he has to share.
Rebekah, too, isn’t aware that she has more love to give than to just one son. She clearly loves Jacob. Her blessing is denied to Esau, and Isaac’s is denied to Jacob and dysfunction follows.
Maybe Rebekah preferred Jacob because Isaac preferred Esau, and she couldn’t stand for Jacob to not have a parent’s full adoration.
Of course, Isaac isn’t entirely to blame for this mess. How does he know how to be a good father? His was willing to carve him up like a Thanksgiving Turkey because he believed a blood-thirsty deity required it, and he was more devoted to his delusions about the deity than to his own child. How many parents have sacrificed their children in the name of bad religion?
This dysfunctional family, full of deceit and madness and rage and trickery and triangulation suffers a lot of pain and the cycles of dysfunction are passed down from one generation to the next. But that isn’t how it has to be.
Eventually, Jacob will not be his mother’s favorite, his father’s spare son, his brother’s enemy, or a lonely, scared little person who believes he can only be someone if he takes away someone else’s good fortune. Jacob finally wrestles with God/the better angels of his nature/his conscience/his consciousness/his ideals and he will not let the divine presence go until he gets his own blessing. And his blessing is to know who is he really is, to come to accept his sacred value.
Now, Jacob isn’t always the best husband or father, wrestling with the angel is the beginning of overcoming his demons, but there will be more work to do…healing is a process and a messy one sometimes, but the healing begins as soon as he is willing to embrace a “new thought” about himself. Maybe that’s the blessing we are all seeking and that blessing may begin to change our lives for the better.