Yesterday’s message …
- Referenced Julie’s career in the health care industry;
- Spoke openly regarding the fact that most of us are motivated by forces about which we are unaware;
- Described Genesis 25-50 as a “mini-series”;
- Arrived at this bottom line: The wounds you ignore become the pain you inflict.
I want to talk to you this morning for a couple of minutes about Wound Care. Mostly because my wife Julie is a VP of sales for a med device company & for many years was with a firm that specialized in wound care. Ergo, I’m an expert. But wounds, as you may or may not know, go from the routine to the gruesome; from paper cuts in my office to shrapnel on the strees of Kabul. But one thing all these wounds have in common (well, maybe a couple of levels UP from a paper cut) is that if they are left untreated & untended, if they are IGNORED, then they become infected.
And then, depending on the severity or placement of the original wound – the one ignored – it can grow, fester, bring about infection up to and including gangrene resulting in drastic measures up to and including amputation, separating limb from life. (Aren’t you glad you came to church for THAT this morning?!) By the way, the product for which Julie led sales for many years was a near magical vacuuming device that, in addition to rescuing limbs and backs, also paid for our kids to go to college. So there’s that.
I know you are glad for that medical infomercial but you are justified in wondering why this digression into wounds when we are talking about apples, trees, parenting, and households. That’s a really good question because I have a really good answer that I’m going to give you in a little bit. But before that, we have this remarkable privilege in this series of digging into Genesis, the first book in the biblical library and one that is only tangentially about the creation of universe but much more about the creation of a family and a nation and all the drama & melodrama that accompanies it. Because here on ANCESTRY.BIBLE.COM is the family tree: ABRAHAM – ISAAC – ESAU, JACOB – 12, INCLUDING JOSEPH. Now this is WAY back, about 1700 BC or so, and some of this family tree involves polygamy which the bible describes but doesn’t endorse. But this is a family tree where, for good and for ill, for courage and for cowardice, the apple does not fall far from the tree. At all. The attitudes and actions of mom and dad get almost inevitably replicated in son & daughter.
Including this fascinating little sidebar from Genesis 25. Isaac – Abraham’s son, the one who’d ALMOST been sacrificed at the altar & imagine his lingering trauma! – he and one of his wives (sigh) have a set of twins: Esau & Jacob (AV of painting?). And look at the little aside, the oh-by-the-way that is actually loaded up with meaning and impact: READ Gen 25:27-28.
27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Oh my gosh. Get this: if the narrator of Genesis knows this fact, the boys who lived it knew it as well. Esau knows that he is on the cover of Field & Stream and Jacob knows that he is either GQ or American’s Next Top Chef (AV). But that dynamic of favoritism …. WOW …some of you know what that’s like. You’re the favored. Or the ignored. Or you’re the favor-er.
And this favoritism sets in motion an incredible series of events (that some of you are familiar with & others don’t know; if not, read Genesis 25-50 … it would be a great mini-series!) in which Jacob (the Grabber) scams and schemes Esau (his twin!) out of his inheritance and then, in one of Scripture’s most anguished scenes, out of his father’s blessing as well. All of Jacob’s shenanigans are so awful, so deceptive, so beyond the pale, that Esau vows to kills his brother and Jacob has to flee the family, living in exile for ___ years or so. The family suffers an … amputation.
But what is interesting to me is that since the narrator knows then the boys know and Jacob knows and it’s a wound. His dad chooses his brother over him. Because the relationship between fathers and sons can be so fraught, so tense, so loaded, and most of us guys long more than anything else for dad’s approval. And when it is withheld, the effects are devastating. In fact, the approval that Jacob MUST have desired was SO WITHHELD from him that he had to dress up like Esau to get it. He stole it because there was no other way he was getting it. It’s a gaping wound, given to son courtesy of a father’s favoritism.
And apparently, Jacob deals with this gaping wound not by dealing with it but by ignoring it and then embarking on a lifetime of scheming and trickeration. He’s got the wound – my dad, MY DAD! Loves my brother more than me – it’s festering, but he is very busy ignoring it. And I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that Jacob is not the last wound carrying around a psychic, invisible wound & not dealing with it. Because while not all of you are parents, almost all of you HAD parents. And for those of you who HAD parents, there were things they did and attitudes they had that UNITENTIONALLY (or not) in many cases left a wound in you. For some, it may have been favoritism like in Genesis. You were either the favored and all the weight that put on you or you were the runner up & all the hurt that ensued because of it. For some, it was the simple act of divorce & the havoc that wrought whether you were 7 or 27 when it happened. Others it was neglect. Or abuse. Or being raised by an alcoholic. Or the simple sense that you could never measure up. The expectations were always higher than your performance and the stream of criticism that resulted was unrelenting. Wounds. Not all of you, most of you. Even in the best of families, there are some wounds that remain.
Well, back to Genesis. Fast forward 12 chapters and 40 years or so and Jacob has been both EXILED (to save his skin) and RETURNED (with his own family). He’s now a father, and like Daddy Isaac, has children by multiple wives, which the bible again describes without endorsing. And in talking about his family, look at this other aside in 37:1-4:
Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate[a] robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
Oh Lord! He does what had been done! Propelled by forces that have been embedded in his psyche, so deep I’m sure he was unaware of them, he repeats THE ONLY PATTERN HE KNOWS! He wound has now been passed on to the other 11 sons, every one who ISN’T Joseph and what follows in that family (Jacob’s descendants) not only makes ALW rich (Joseph & Tech Dreamcoat) but is identical to what had happened with Jacob & Esau: exile, separation, death & death threats, fracturing, amputation. Joseph in Egypt while the 11 brothers and their dad Jacob THE WOUNDED ONE, back in Canaan. History bizarrely, sadly repeats itself. And this is the family God entrusts with his covenant, his name, his glory! So tenuous! At every level they are about to fall apart.
Well, the good news is that God ultimately works it out for good & the family reconciles & the covenant continues. But it’s very clear that God works IN SPITE of these people not because of them. They are more obstacle than partner. And the common denominator in the these two stories involving three generations is Jacob. The UNfavorite who plays favorites. The Wounded Wounder. The Sinned Against who becomes The Sin Upon. He deals out the same hand he got dealt. Because here’s what I want you to know, all you apples & trees: The wounds you ignore become the pain you inflict. You don’t do it on purpose, it’s not by design, but without intervention it is inevitable. Most of you apples fall so close to your tree that you repeat patterns, blessings, problems, and dysfunctions without even knowing it. You treat it as normal cuz it’s all you know when actually it’s deeply dysfunctional. REFRAIN
It’s, sadly, why children of alcoholics so often marry an alcoholic. It’s why those raised in abuse become entangled as adults with abusers – in fact, they go from one abusive relationship to another. It’s why so many of you moms and dads, in the heat of the moment, hear things come out of your mouth and immediately think: “Oh my God, I’ve become my father.” Or: “I sound just like momma.” The very thing you vowed you’d never be is exactly what (and who) you’ve become. It’s like the news bite I’ve heard in a quite awhile involved the dad & son who MET (never had before) in jail. There was generational sin because there was no generational intervention. REFRAIN
And so my great prayer is that we can raise awareness in this place. Raise awareness to those areas of dysfuction & family trauma to which you are especially vulnerable – all with the hope that you will stop ignoring and start dealing. For some of you that won’t involve a whole lot more than naming. Your growing up was basically solid, not full of trauma, but you still have some places. One of the things we do in pre-marital counseling is an excavation session. Now: we don’t get out in an ancient city with spades and shovels; but we instead excavate family of origin stuff. What do you want to name so you can either make sure it’s not in this upcoming marriage or make VERY SURE that it’s in it? In that naming, some small things can be overcome. One of the benefits of marrying into a Latino family is that I have been able to overcome my inherent resistance to being hugged and to all things “I love you.” Turns out my own children have need plenty of both.
And then some of you have been delaying dealing with your own life – thinking I got this – but it’s time for counseling. For therapy. Or recovery. Augmented by your LifeGroup for sure. So that the wounds are not just band-aided but dealt with. Not just tolerated but transformed. Even to the point that for some of you who feel like you blew it as a parent, you are given the grace & the strength to get it right as a grandparents. Because what I long for ultimately for all of you is the perspective of author Noah Benshea who said,
Do not kiss your children so they will kiss you back,
…but so they will kiss their children. AV
That’s a family tree – including its apples – free of wounds and full of wonder. May it be so.