It was a rough evening for Jacob. He was on the road from his home in Beersheba to the town where his mom grew up, to see family he had never known. He was about 80 miles into a 600-mile journey. And though he was in his forties, my guess is that he was telling himself, “Am I there yet?”
It wasn’t just a family reunion trip, though. He was leaving home because half of his family was mad at him.
His brother Esau was the impulsive brother. He was the adventurer brother. He was the “out in the wilds hunting” brother. He was the brother his dad liked best.
And a couple times Jacob took advantage of his brother.
The last time, he put on clothes that would smell like his brother, he fixed food that would taste like his brother’s, so that his dad, Isaac, would give him the blessing, would make him number one in the will.
Blessings mattered. It was a time when words carried weight, where the things you said to a person gave that person an identity that affected their relations with themselves and with others.
It was a time not completely different than ours.
Isaac prayed that God would make Jacob, pretending to be Esau, productive, that God would give Jacob, pretending to be Esau, influence and reputation, that the brothers of Jacob, pretending to be Esau, would bow down to Jacob pretending to be Esau. In other words, Esau would be subject to Jacob.
When Esau found out, he was furious.
And Esau was desperate.
“Don’t you have another blessing for me?” he asked Isaac.
Their mother, Rebekah, suggested that Jacob should leave town. Go to her family. Wait for Esau to calm down.
So Jacob left.
And on this night, alone, not far from a small town but not able to go in, Jacob lays down, positions a rock to hold his head, and falls asleep.
As he begins to sleep, I want to stop and think for a moment. We all want to know that someone knows us. And we want to know that we are loved. But we are afraid that if someone really knows us, we won’t be loved. That’s why we hide.
It’s true in relationships with other people. Because it’s true in relationships with God.
Deep down, we’re made for relationship with God and others. But we want to have relationship on our terms. We want to make the arrangements, to disclose only what we want to disclose. We don’t want to lay out our fears and failures and doubts and insecurities because we don’t think that we’ll be loved.
And so like Jacob, we live in between home and somewhere else, a little afraid of revealing our hearts. Afraid of what God might do.
This is part one of a reflection from Genesis 27-28. Part two tomorrow.