Friday, January 24, 2014

to focus on my favourite story


I've started of a program of reading through the Bible in a year, with a lovely group of ladies. Things to take note of seem to pop up all the time. I always seem to be jotting something down.

For example, consider Bible hero Jacob, as an elderly father, when he arrived in Egypt with his family, was reunited with his son, Joseph, and introduced to the Pharoah. The ruler asked how old he was, and this was Jacob's reply. 'The years of my sojourning are 130 - a short and hard life, not nearly as long as my ancestors were given.' (Genesis 47:9-10)

Our natural instinct may be to negate his opinion about the shortness of his life, but I was thinking of the bit about it being 'hard'. It's an interesting statement, coming from a man who was chosen, just like his father and grandfather, to be abundantly blessed.

He was visited by an angel and the ground upon which he lay was promised to all of his descendants for years to come. His cheating uncle didn't want to take him off the payroll, because it was obvious how abundantly his flocks and herds were being blessed while Jacob worked for him. Jacob inherited a birthright that didn't start out being his. He was clearly given precedence over his older twin brother, who didn't value the things of God as highly. He had twelve fine, strong sons and two women who loved him. (Well, at least two. Those maid servants may have been fond of him too.) At the time of his return to his childhood land, he was very wealthy, and he made peace with his brother. When we hear anything like, "You'll be like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," we get excited, thinking that means great things will happen to us.

Yet I can understand how Jacob could make the claim he did. A blessed life doesn't mean sitting around in the lap of luxury being waited on. There may be a lot of hard work, along with some hardships at the hands of others. We each have more than one story we can tell, and Jacob's life is a prime example.

This describes the same man. He was treated as second best by his father, who favoured his brother. In fact, he was given a name which meant 'heel' and had to live with it. He had to flee his angry twin for fear of being murdered, and never saw his beloved mother again. Tricked by his scheming uncle into working hard for twice as long as he'd expected, he had to leave by stealth. He lost his most beloved wife in childbirth. His daughter was raped. His eldest son slept with his concubine and the next two went completely bonkers and massacred a whole group of people in a town. He was tricked into thinking his favourite son had been savagely mauled to death by wild animals, and grieved him for years until he found out he'd been tricked.

Doesn't this show that even a blessed life may have its share of hardships? (It's also a goldmine for people who want to talk about sowing and reaping, getting back what you give, payback, or karma, to use a more eastern term. The one who agreed to play such a deceptive trick was later the subject of some devastating tricks, first by his uncle, later by his own sons. That's the subject of another blog post I might do one day.)

For today, I'm taking the challenge to focus on my favourite of the two stories which may describe my own life. I may be the baby sister who was picked on by school bullies, later suffered several miscarriages, and have had some financial hardships. But I'm also the same person who has a good husband, three excellent kids who make me smile a lot, the time to spend writing novels, which I really enjoy, and the good fortune to live in South Australia, a safe place where we can flourish.

What are your personal stories like?


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