Divorce, Dreams, Genesis, Midway, The Inner Landscape

Call Me Israel

Jacob Wrestling

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.

Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

 (Genesis 32:24-28, part of a reading for Pentecost 21C)

It must have been quite a night. Jacob sent his family across the river ahead of him: his wives, his children, his servants, his livestock, all his property as a highly mobile desert patriarch. Was he looking for peace and quiet, or did he anticipate a struggle, or an opportunity?

In the middle of the night, at mid-life or really past it as I edge toward 50, I am struggling with God in the night and trying to call it an opportunity. How am I a different person than I was ten years ago? Or than I was at 24, the age of my oldest child, the age I became his mother? (A terrifying thought! Who ever rated me ready to care for an infant when I was so young myself?)

We’re shifting at home, readjusting our view of what life had been, trying to see what the future will be and bring. I have a new call, and a very sick dog, and my marriage is over.

I am striving with God and humans.

I wake in the night, and I wonder what’s next? And I look back at this year and I think I can never call it the worst year ever, no matter what, because my second son flew out of a car and lived, because all three of my children are wonderful, because I found out who really cares about me, and because two people who cannot live together anymore are doing their best to be merciful about it while caring for a beloved pet who is likely nearing his end.

But like Jacob, I am out of joint, and I may walk with a limp. So call me Israel.

At Church, Chez Songbird, Genesis, Grrrls

A few things on my mind this Thursday night

  • Wow! Is it dark early.
  • City By the Sea lacks adequate street lights for dog-walking at this season of the year.
  • Dioramas (or mobiles or posters or fill-in-the-blank) to illustrate the use of a literary element in a short story are probably my least favorite thing among assignments my children have received over the years.
  • #1 Son, if you're reading, remember your "project" about "Catcher in the Rye?"
  • Somehow I have approximately six million items to write for the church newsletter.
  • Carrots steamed and then glazed with olive oil, salt, pepper and maple syrup are quite delicious. 
  • It's hard to leave home to teach Confirmation class when there's a project brewing.
  • But the way those 8th graders are committing to what we are studying gives me hope.
  • And reading Genesis 1-2:4a aloud in a circle with them, each reading a section and then another taking over, and then another, was a holy moment.
  • Coming home, I got good news from a friend about her health, and that was holy, too.
  • At home the project is well underway.
  • My daughter is a better artist than she will admit.
  • But I still don't like those diorama assignments.

Children, Genesis

Sibling Rivalry

(Thinking about the Hebrew Bible reading, which you can find here.)

"You're my new favorite."

It's a joke at my house, where all three children know how loved they are, equally though differently. If someone does something spectacularly useful or helpful, they may hear those words from me. When everyone is home, there is playful jousting for superiority of wit or knowledge or simply authority. #1 Son puts Snowman in his place or playfully reprimands Light Princess, but they let him know how confident they are, too. They boost each other at the same time they tease. They can do this because they know where they stand with the adults in their lives: secure and beloved.

Joseph was –oh!– the favorite of his father, the child of Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel. That complicated family system involved multiple sons of four different mothers: two wives who were sisters and their two slave women. And we think divorce makes life confusing for children! But this kind of extended family was common, and so were the sibling rivalries that went with it. A child like Joseph, so favored by the father, threatened the patriarchal rules of inheritance and authority.

Brothers_deceiveAnd so, his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, then smeared the blood of a dead animal on the beautiful coat their father had given him. They cared more about their jealousy and sense of order in the family than they did about their father's grief.

Don't ever let anyone tell you the Bible is the source for "family values." Instead it is a book of human stories, the myths and legends of our particular heritage. It tells the truth about our tendencies, the good and the bad, in stories that seem larger than life. They are riveting tales! We can find ourselves in them.

Every church fight has someone like Joseph, so shiny that everyone else feels threatened. Every church fight has an elder who weeps over the losses. Every church fight has schemers, whether they know themselves to be that or not. So often we see ourselves as the good guys, or gals, because we believe we are acting for the best.

Are we? It's worth taking a step back to give it one more look, before we find ourselves selling things that were never ours in the first place, trying to make things appear to be what they are not, even hurting the people we love.