Post 336

Family Counselling, Part 12:
Hungry

BLOGGER: It’s nice to see you again.
JACOB: We wanted to say hello. It has been so many years.
BLOGGER: So many.
JACOB: You have not aged.
BLOGGER: Thank you. People tell me that, but I know I have.
JACOB: You live a good life, I think.
BLOGGER: I am very blessed, yes.
JACOB: Your family is well?
BLOGGER: Yes, thank you.
(Silence.)
BLOGGER: Judah was telling me — it’s Judah, am I right?
JUDAH: Yes.
BLOGGER: Judah was telling me as you were walking in that you have been to Egypt once already, and that you are going to leave again in a few days?
JACOB: Not me. No, I haven’t been, but they went. And they will soon depart again.
BLOGGER: Egypt.
JACOB: Yes, to buy more food. We are running low again.
BLOGGER: I understand. Provisions are low everywhere.
REUBEN: And also there is the matter of Simeon.
BLOGGER: Simeon?
REUBEN: We left him in Egypt.
BLOGGER: Your brother? You left your brother Simeon in Egypt?
REUBEN: Not because we wanted to.
BLOGGER: Why? What happened?
REUBEN: The man there — he forced us to leave Simeon.
BLOGGER: What man?
REUBEN: The man in charge of the grain distribution.
BLOGGER: In Egypt?
REUBEN: Yes.
BLOGGER: Who?
REUBEN: The Egyptian man. He didn’t believe us, and he had Simeon taken prisoner.
LEVI: He made us, and we saw Simeon being bound up right before our eyes and carried away.
BLOGGER: Oh no!
REUBEN: He wanted to keep Simeon until we returned with Benjamin.
BLOGGER: Benjamin wasn’t with you?
REUBEN: No, he didn’t accompany us to Egypt. Our father wouldn’t let us take him.
JACOB: He’s the youngest one!
BLOGGER: But he’s not so young now? He’s, what, thirty years old?
BENJAMIN: I am thirty-five.
JACOB: But if anything happens to him, I will have none of my sons from Rachel. His brother has already died. I cannot lose Benjamin too.
BLOGGER: So you stayed behind on the first trip?
BENJAMIN: I remained here in Canaan with my father.
BLOGGER: So why was the man asking for Benjamin? How did he know about Benjamin if Benjamin wasn’t there?
REUBEN: The man asked us to tell him about our family. He asked about our father, and if we had other siblings.
BLOGGER: So you told him that you had a sibling at home, Benjamin.
REUBEN: Yes, of course.
BLOGGER: And what did he say?
REUBEN: Well, he didn’t seem to like us very much from the beginning, even though we were very respectful to him. He spoke very gruffly to us, and the interpreter told us what he was saying. There were many interpreters there, because there were so many people from so many countries coming to buy grains and rice. He said, “Where do you come from?” We said, “We are from the land of Canaan, and we are here to buy food.” He said to us, “You are spies. You have come to discover the weakness of our land.”
BLOGGER: He thought you were spies?
REUBEN: Yes, he didn’t believe we were ordinary men. Perhaps because there were so many of us, and we don’t all look very much alike, but we explained, we said, “We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants are not spies.”
BLOGGER: You called yourselves “his servants”?
REUBEN: Yes! He was very severe, and we wanted to appease him in any way that we could. We bowed very low, and we spoke with deference.
BLOGGER: What else?
REUBEN: We said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no longer living.”
BLOGGER: “No longer living” — as in, Joseph.
REUBEN: Yes.
BLOGGER: Did he believe you then? I guess he didn’t.
REUBEN: No, he didn’t believe us, and he said, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.”
BLOGGER: Oh my.
REUBEN: So he made a rule that nine of us would remain in prison, while one of us went back to fetch Benjamin.
BLOGGER: But didn’t you say that —
REUBEN: He changed the rule. After we were in prison for three days, he came to us and said that he would let all of us go, except for one. He said: “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined in your prison, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die.”
BLOGGER: So you chose Simeon to stay in his prison?
REUBEN: We didn’t have a chance for discussion. He ordered his men to take Simeon, and right then and there, Simeon was bound and taken out of our sight.
JUDAH: That’s the last time we saw him.
BLOGGER: The last time you saw Simeon?
JUDAH: Yes.
BLOGGER: So you haven’t been back to Egypt since then?
JUDAH: No.
BLOGGER: How long ago was that?
REUBEN: It was almost eight months ago.
BLOGGER: Simeon has been there, imprisoned, for eight months?
REUBEN: We have been too frightened to return.
BLOGGER: But what about Simeon?
(Silence.)
JACOB: You see? This is how I lose another son!
(Silence.)
BLOGGER: But you are going back?
REUBEN: Yes, we are going back. We have run out of food. Our household is very large now, with wives and children and servants, and so even though the amount of food was large, we need to act soon.
BLOGGER: So you did receive food from Egypt.
REUBEN: Yes, we received a great amount of food.
GAD: And we received it without payment!
BLOGGER: Without payment? How did this happen?
REUBEN: How should we know?
BLOGGER: You don’t know?
JUDAH: Each of us brought our own small bags of money, and we each gave them the money in exchange for the grains, but when we were on our way home, Gad went to feed his donkey, and he found his bag of money at the mouth of the grain sacks!
REUBEN: And for each of us it was likewise: in each of our bags of grain, was our money again, untouched.
BLOGGER: Why? What happened?
REUBEN: We don’t know.
JACOB: It will be all the worse for us, for the man will accuse them of thievery! I will lose all my sons!
BLOGGER: It is dangerous, then. Did someone make a mistake? I guess things were very busy there, but then I don’t know why the money would be in with the grains, and it was like this for all of you.
REUBEN: We don’t know.
BLOGGER: So what will you do?
JUDAH: We will return. My father has suggested —
JACOB: I said to them, “take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man a present, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you; carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight.
BLOGGER: You hope to avoid his wrath.
REUBEN: Indeed.
BLOGGER: And you will also bring Benjamin this time?
JUDAH: Yes. This time, we will bring Benjamin.
BLOGGER: And Jacob, you allow them to take Benjamin this time?
REUBEN: We have no choice!
JUDAH: The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’
JACOB: Why you needed to reveal you had a younger brother, I don’t understand.
REUBEN: Father, we already explained! He questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, “Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?” We were merely answering his questions. How could we have predicted that he would say, “Bring your brother down”?
JACOB: Now I risk losing another one!
REUBEN: We have promised you, Father!
JACOB: You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come upon me.
REUBEN: We have promised you father! We will not lose another one!
JUDAH: I said to my father, “Send Benjamin with me, and we will arise and go. We must have food, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones.” I said to him, “Look, I will be surety for Benjamin; of my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame for ever.”
REUBEN: And I too, have said the same. I said to my father: “Slay my two sons if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.”
BLOGGER: Wow.
(Silence.)
BLOGGER: Is this enough for you, Jacob? You will let them take Benjamin to see the man?
REUBEN: We are running out of food!
BLOGGER: Jacob?
JACOB: I said to them, you can go. I said, “Go again to the man. May the Lord grant you mercy before the man, that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
BLOGGER: That’s how you feel?
JACOB: Yes, that’s what I said.
BLOGGER: You are prepared for the worst?
JACOB: Can anyone be prepared for the worst?
(Silence.)

 

Post 335

Family Counselling, Part 11:
Zaphenathpaneah

Dear Blogger,

I think you will begin to suspect that I am writing you imaginative tales, but I assure you that these letters are the true stories of my life!
God’s mercy has been shown to me in very mysterious and entirely unforeseeable ways.

When I wrote to you last, I wrote to you from the prison. I am not in prison anymore, by an amazing turn of events.
This is how it happened.
As I mentioned, I was put in charge of all of the other prisoners. Two of my prisoners had worked for the Pharaoh himself. One was a baker and one was a butler.
One morning, when I was greeting each of the prisoners, I noticed that these two were upset. Their problems were the same: both had had dreams, and they could not understand them.
I said to them, “Why are you upset?” and each of them said, “I have had a most unusual dream, but I have nobody to interpret the dream.”
I responded, “Do interpretations not belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”
So they told me their dreams. I will not repeat all of it here, for I have so much else I wish to say, but as they described the details, I immediately understood the meanings. I knew that the butler would be restored to his position, but that the baker would be executed. When I had interpreted both of their dreams, I made my request of the butler. (I did not request this of the baker, for I knew that his days were ending.) I said to the butler: “Remember me, when it is well with you, and do me the kindness, I pray you, to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into prison.”

Later I received word that everything had happened as I had said. The baker was hung, and the butler was restored to his position. However, I languished in prison for a further two years. It became clear to me that the butler had not mentioned me to the Pharaoh, or else that the Pharaoh was not interested in my case.

But lo and behold, one day, soon after my 30th birthday, several of the Pharaoh’s officials came down to the prison and asked me to prepare to meet the Pharaoh. I washed and I changed my clothing. (They provided me with better garments.) They told me that the Pharaoh had found no one who could interpret his dreams, even though he had summoned all of the wise men and magicians of Egypt to assist him, but that the butler had then remembered me, and had said that two years prior, I had correctly interpreted his dream and the dream of the baker.

I came before the Pharaoh and he said to me: “I was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows sleek and fat, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, gaunt and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the gaunt and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And then I awoke. When I fell asleep, I dreamed a second time. Behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears.”

I tell you the details of his dreams to show you how mysterious they were, and how disturbing. Indeed, his spirit was greatly troubled, for he sensed an omen.

But I knew that the Lord, in his goodness, was providing a warning to him which would enable him to protect his people. I understood the dreams, and I spoke immediately. I said, “The dream of Pharaoh is one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dream is one. The seven lean and gaunt cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land, and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of that famine which will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.”

However, I said more than this. I advised the Pharaoh, for I said: “Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take the fifth part of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine which are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

I was pleased to provide the Pharaoh with my assistance. My heart was gladdened that the Lord was using me as his servant to assist him. The Pharaoh is not an evil man. His desire to preserve his people was pleasing to the Lord.

After I spoke, the Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a man as this, in whom is the Spirit of God?”

Then he pointed at me, and said, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” He said to me, “Behold, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”

And at this moment, he stood up, and removed the signet ring from his finger to put it on my own.

I was almost speechless in the moment. Was it not this morning that I awoke in a prison? And now I was given charge of the entire land of Egypt! You cannot imagine all of the sensations I felt at that time.

Since that day, I have executed my duties, and each day is rewarding with good work. The Pharaoh is almost like a brother to me. He calls me Zaphenathpaneah, and I ride in his second chariot when we are procession. I wear garments of fine linen and a gold chain upon my neck, a gift from him. He delights in giving me both power and privileges. He says, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent, no man shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” He gave me a wife as well. Her name is Asenath. She is the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. She accompanies me as I travel throughout Egypt, directing the storage of provisions.

Forgive the length of this letter. I take comfort, somehow, in writing to you, as if you are a tie to my former land and kin. I have not forgotten your kindness, and I keep you in my prayers. May the Lord keep you safe.

Warmest regards,
Joseph son of Jacob

P.S.: I know that you will receive this letter in good time, for I have access to messengers who are both speedy and reliable, one of the benefits of my position.

P.P.S.: If the famine extends beyond the borders of Egypt, you may do well to set aside provisions now, enough to provide for many years.

 

Post 334

Family Counselling, Part 10:
Update

Dear Blogger,
So much has happened since I last wrote to you.
I am hoping that you received my previous letter.
In that letter, I mentioned my master, Potiphar, whom I began to serve after my brothers sold me into slavery to the Mid′ianite traders, who, in turn, sold me to Potiphar.
So much has happened since then!

I am writing to you from prison, but let me explain how I came to be here.

After I wrote to you, things improved even more for me.
Potiphar put me in charge of all of his affairs, because everything that I did was blessed by the Lord,
And all of my decisions added to the prosperity of his household.
I was watchful and diligent, and I continually considered how to improve everything for Potiphar.
I was not unhappy.
The only difficulty for me was the wife of Potiphar.
She began to notice me, and this was the beginning of my trouble.
Whenever her husband was absent, she found me.
She said to me, “Lie with me.”
She said this not once, nor twice, but many times.
Finally, I said to her, “Potiphar has placed me in charge of his entire household, and in everything he has made me equal to himself, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
But she would not relent, and it was a torment to me.
Finally, a day came when there were no servants nearby, and she took hold of my cloak to pull me towards her.
I ran out of the house, leaving behind my cloak.
I was in shock at her brazenness, but at the same time, I was relieved to have escaped.

My relief was short-lived, however, because within a few hours, I was arrested and put into prison with no chance to explain or defend myself.
It is said that I attempted to seduce the wife of my master, when the opposite is true.
When I reflect on her treachery and lies, I burn with anger, but I will not fully express my thoughts about her, out of respect for my master.
And my main thought is for him, for Potiphar, for I am grieved by the thought that he believes these lies about me. I am powerless to convince him that I am innocent, and I can only pray that somehow he discovers that he has been deceived.
I have been here for four and a half years already. It is the king’s prison.
You need not worry for me, however, because my situation is not what you would expect.
I became friends with the guards of the prison, and they began to trust me, in the way that Potiphar did.
They gave me tasks, which at first were small, but which later became more important.
I never betrayed their trust, and they found that they could trust “the Hebrew man.”
Eventually, they made me the keeper of the prison, and I manage all of the prisoners and everything needed for the prison.
I enjoy a fair amount of freedom now (hence I am able to send you this letter), and sometimes I scarcely feel like a prisoner.
In fact, in some ways, it is not entirely different from managing Potiphar’s estate.
Once again, the Lord protects me and keeps me safe.

I hope you are well.
I think often of home, and my life with my family.
Despite everything, I miss them, and I hope they are faring well.
Sometimes I have dreams that I am with them again, and that we are happy to be together.

Warmest regards,
Joseph son of Jacob

 

Post 333

Family Counselling, Part 9:
The End

Dear Blogger,
Do you remember me?
I am Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob. I am the second youngest, son of Rachel.
We were in your office in the spring.
So much has happened since then.
I hope this letter reaches you safely.
I have been given assurances that you will receive it before next month’s end.

I have not written to my family, and as I write more, you will understand the reason.

It was not long after our meeting that my brothers attacked me when we were out in the field.
My father had sent me to fetch them home, but when I arrived, they began pushing me and angrily insulting me.
They said that I had invented stories and that I had invented dreams, all in order to make them look bad.
They were as fierce as a band of lions, and hatred was in their eyes and in their very breath.
They circled me and taunted me. They bowed down to me to ridicule my dreams and me.
I tried to reason with them, and I tried to protest my innocence,
But they wanted to misunderstand me and my words.
And of course I could not bring silence onto words I had already spoken,
Words that had enraged them.
Why did the Lord send me dreams which would lead them to such fury?
Reuben tried to persuade them not to kill me outright.
Throw him into that pit, he said.
I was dirtied and my skin was reddened with their roughness.
They agreed to do as Reuben said.
But then Reuben left.
To where I do not know.
They grabbed me, stripped me of my cloak — which they ridiculed, in their envy.
I knew that nobody would find me at the bottom of that dark place, that hell.
We all knew it, and I pleaded with them to change their mind, but they had no mercy.
It didn’t matter what I said.
They mocked me for my “creative solutions.”
Some of them called me names, and mocked me more,
While others no longer looked at me.
Then they did it.
They cut their ties with me.
And shoved me into it.
I fell.
The murk.
The darkness.
The strange and wet coldness.
How can I describe my fear?
Looking upwards at them, I could no longer tell one from the others,
Their faces were now dark against the sun.
So many brothers, but not one to save me!
They would not have treated an animal the way they treated me.
They enjoyed seeing me defenceless.
I did not know I had kin like this.
They were strangers to me.
Ah — worse than strangers.
What stranger would take pleasure in torment such as this?
But then, tired of their sport, they left me.
I could hear them, but only faintly.
They were talking and even laughing.
For them, life would continue.
But for me, the silence was worse than their jeers, and I begged them to come back to me.
I was weeping.
I begged them to not leave me.
I promised that I would do anything for them, if they would only take me out again.
But I did not know what words to use to change their hearts.
My voice echoed and rattled to my own ears, but I did not know whether they could hear me.
I wept.
I waited, and listened, but there was nothing.

But then, all of a sudden, so much commotion!
They wanted me to come out, and I felt alive once more!
I was relieved and overjoyed, and I thanked the Lord for his rescue of me.
They had changed their minds, so I thought.
They lowered a rope, told me to grab it.
I clutched it eagerly and tried to climb up the sides of the pit.
Twice I fell back down, and I was afraid, but my brothers,
Who once again felt like my own brothers,
Encouraged me to try again.
I managed to get closer to the top, and their hands — many hands —
Reached for me and pulled for me to come out.
My heart flooded with love for them,
Once again

But then I understood.
A caravan with foreigners was nearby.
It had crossed this lonely field on its way to somewhere else.
These strangers surveyed me,
And I stood.
Surely I was scarcely recognizable as a man,
Covered in mud:
Mud in my hair, in my ears and my mouth.
My skin was cut and bleeding.
I must have looked like a madman.
But my humiliation was not complete.
I had not yet suffered enough.
In a moment, the transaction was finished, and I was bound and dragged to their caravan.

Blogger, my own brothers sold me into slavery.
Though it satisfied them to think of me as dead,
The money lured them, and they decided to act accordingly.
The new plan meant that I would be as good as dead,
And that was all that they wanted.

For this reason, I will not write to them.
If they know where I am, they may come to kill me or send someone else to do it.
If you meet them, I beg you not to tell them anything about me.

So now I am in a foreign place.
I am in Egypt.
My master is Potiphar.
He is an officer of the Pharaoh, and commander of the guard;
An important man, to be sure.
He has grown to trust me, and he treats me well.
So my life is better than before.
I do all of my work diligently, and I put my faith in the Lord.

I remember you, and I often remember how you tried to understand our family.
Numerous times, I said to myself, if only Blogger knew what happened afterwards!
It is for this reason that I wanted to write to you.
I thought that you would be interested to know how the story ended.
It ends with me in a land far away —
A slave, but not an unhappy one.

With warmest regards,
Joseph son of Jacob

 

Post 332

Family Counselling, Part 8:
Cancelled

BLOGGER: Why did they cancel?

ROBY: Death in the family.

BLOGGER: A death? Oh no. Who died?

ROBY: One of the sons.

BLOGGER: One of the sons? One of Jacob’s sons?

ROBY: That’s what the message said.

BLOGGER: One of Jacob’s sons?

ROBY: Yes.

BLOGGER: Who called? Which one died? And how? When?

ROBY: I’ll grab the notes; I wrote down what he said and I’d rather read them than try to remember. Just a sec.

(Silence.)

ROBY: It was Reuben who called. Reuben.

BLOGGER: He’s the eldest. And?

ROBY: Reuben said, “We found Joseph’s coat in the field when we were on our way home.”

BLOGGER: Joseph! Oh no! Poor Joseph!

ROBY: “It was covered in blood.”

BLOGGER: Oh no!

ROBY: The father’s really upset. “My father is out of his mind with grief” — that’s how he put it.

BLOGGER: Of course!

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: Nothing else?

ROBY: No. That’s everything. Do you want to listen to the message yourself?

BLOGGER: I probably should. I’ll listen to it later, and I should call them to offer my condolences. What time did the message come in?

ROBY: 4:55 this morning.

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: I just don’t know what to think.

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: So I guess that’s the last time I’ll ever see Joseph. Seemed like a really nice guy. Do you remember seeing him?

ROBY: There were so many of them. I didn’t really notice any one of them in particular.

BLOGGER: He was the one wearing that coat, kind of colourful, with a bunch of trim.

ROBY: Oh! Yes, I remember the coat! That was Joseph?

BLOGGER: Yeah.

ROBY: He looked like one of the younger ones?

BLOGGER: Yeah. He was the second-youngest one, but I don’t know how old.

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: Did Reuben say anything else?

ROBY: No, there wasn’t anything else.

BLOGGER: Wow. Can’t believe it.

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: Yeah. Oh boy. Jacob is not going to be okay. He’s going to be so broken. Joseph was his favourite.

ROBY: How do you know? He said?

BLOGGER: Yeah. Everybody knew.

ROBY: Oh. Well, yes, if Joseph was his favourite.

BLOGGER: Yeah.

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: It’s going to be like Rachel all over again.

ROBY: Rachel?

BLOGGER: She was the mother of two of his sons, Joseph and Benjamin.

ROBY: Only two? There were so many of them!

BLOGGER: Yeah, there were like four mothers.

ROBY: Four?

BLOGGER: Yeah. Really complicated.

ROBY: Did Rachel pass away?

BLOGGER: Years ago, when Joseph was little. Jacob still hasn’t recovered.

ROBY: Wow.

BLOGGER: Yeah.

ROBY: Would you like me to send flowers?

BLOGGER: I don’t know. I don’t know if that would even make any sense to them, you know? Culturally, I mean. It might just be really confusing: “Why did Blogger just send us this plastic vase filled with white roses? There are no roots even.”

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: I think I should just phone, and find out if they would like me to attend his funeral or whatever they have. How are they going to deal with it though? They don’t have his body, right?

ROBY: Doesn’t sound like it.

BLOGGER: Oh, the whole thing is just so dreadful.

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: You know, it’s just the finality of death. It’s just so — silent.

(Silence.)

 

Post 331

Family Counselling, Part 7:
Jacob's Past, Continued

BLOGGER: It strikes me that the whole dynamic is sad, because you are not sufficiently thinking about your other sons, in the way that your father didn’t think of you.

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: I mean, it’s fun and fulfilling to express your love for your child, but if that show of love is accompanied by a disregard for the other children, it’s going to lead to problems. It’s just going to lead to problems. Right?

JACOB: I see no problems.

BLOGGER: I do!

JACOB: I do not!

BLOGGER: Alright. You don’t see that your elder sons are openly expressing resentment towards Joseph?

JACOB: This is natural! Even I have been angry with Joseph at times!

BLOGGER: At Joseph?

JACOB: Yes!

BLOGGER: Why? When?

JACOB: This talk of dreams. I did not like to hear it then. It made me angry. I said to him myself, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” I said that.

BLOGGER: You did?

JACOB: Yes!

BLOGGER: Okay, well, it seems that the parenting here is almost reckless sometimes. It seems you are doing whatever makes you feel happy in the moment, without thinking beyond that to the others, your other children. Your father did the same thing — all of his focus was on Esau, by the sound of it, and where did that leave you?

JACOB: I did not expect more.

BLOGGER: I guess you had your mother. But tell me, did it not lead to tension with your brother, and your father?

(Silence)

BLOGGER: Didn’t it? Didn’t it lead to hard feelings? Friction of some kind?

JACOB: Esau decided to kill me.

BLOGGER: Woah! To kill you? To literally murder you?

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: Because of the blessing?

JACOB: And the birthright.

BLOGGER: I see. What happened?

JACOB: My mother came to me and said, “Your brother comforts himself with thoughts of killing you when your father dies.” She was imagining that my father would be dead and that I would be too. She said she didn’t want to lose both of us. She told me to go to the house of her brother, Laban.

BLOGGER: Laban — is that the father of Leah and Rachel?

JACOB: Yes, the same.

BLOGGER: So you married your cousin?

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: I mean, you married your cousins — plural.

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: And so what happened with Esau? He never caught up with you?

JACOB: I did not see him for many years after that. I did not meet him until after the birth of my eleventh — after the birth of Joseph. And even then, I was dread afraid.

BLOGGER: Afraid of Esau?

JACOB: Yes, of Esau, that he might still want to avenge himself. And I was afraid, moreover, that he would kill not only me, but also my wives and children.

BLOGGER: But?

JACOB: But it was not like this. Esau was not angry with me anymore.

BLOGGER: Well that’s a relief!

JACOB: Yes, absolutely.

BLOGGER: And with respect with your own sons, will you agree with me that you might need to strengthen your relationship with your elder sons?

JACOB: My relationship with all of my sons is fine. There is no need to ‘strengthen’ anything.

BLOGGER: So you don’t see the repetition of a worrisome pattern?

JACOB: No.

BLOGGER: Nothing to worry about?

JACOB: Nothing to worry about.

BLOGGER: I hope you’re right.

 

 

Post 330

Family Counselling, Part 6:
Understanding "the Sins of the Father"

In the Old Testament, we read that God “will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation.” Sometimes, the phrase is lengthened, referring to “those who hate God,” but sometimes concept of “sins of the father” seems to apply to everyone.

At first glance, the concept seems to say that innocent children will somehow experience, and perhaps commit, the same sins committed by their fathers. What does this mean? I remember seeing, a few years ago, a book about cleansing one’s family tree. It was a mixed-up and incorrect reaction to this concept, which sounds both unfortunate and unfair.

But the words are a riddle, because it is impossible for God to force anyone to sin. So then, if he is not making the children sin, what does this concept, or ‘rule,’ mean?

I think it means two things: first, children experience the consequences of their parents’ sins, and second, children often have the same weaknesses. For example, let’s say a woman is tempted to drink too much. We won’t be surprised to hear that 1) her children suffer the consequences of this, and 2) her children also happen to have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. We aren’t surprised, right? Many of our human failings are intergenerational. It’s as though there’s a blind spot all the way down the family tree. Or let’s say a man has a terrible temper, and bullies his family habitually. You won’t be stunned when you hear that his father was the same way, right? We are actually used to seeing or learning of these patterns of “dysfunction” (= sin).

But where it gets interesting is when the story finally reaches a child who chooses differently.

This child, like all of the generations before, carries the weight of that specific type of weakness. Study his genetics or his surroundings, or both, and you will find excuse enough for this child to fall into the same hole as his parent(s), whether that hole is one of the talked-about ones (such as alcoholism or abusive behaviour), or whether it is one of the silent ones (such as envy or hypocrisy). The child has seen it in action. The son has learned from his father how to treat women poorly. The daughter has learned from her mother how to pretend to be holy. They’ve learned it, and, as a matter of fact, it comes easily.

However, this child chooses differently. This child recognizes the potential problems, the potential sin, and corrects the problem. This child confronts and conquers the problem, sooner or later. If this child chooses early and makes a point of avoiding anything that smells like repetition of the same problem, then that’s best. Father is an alcoholic and drug user? The child responds by avoiding alcohol and drugs (and nicotine and caffeine for good measure). Mother is a brazen flirt and home-wrecker? The child responds by cultivating loyalty and prudence in practice and in appearance. The child overcomes the sin of the parents.

I write this simply and briefly, as if it’s easy, but it’s a very dramatic thing to overcome any type of sin. Chesterton wrote his entire book, The Man Who Was Thursday, to illustrate the point that trying to be good is a profound adventure. He felt the point needed to be made, for it is commonly thought that ‘good’ people live very boring lives, that they don’t have stories worth telling.

But avoiding sin is about being tested, and tests can be dramatic. And the thing is, sooner or later, you will be tested to your absolute limit. Nobody is immune. If you believe that you have already been tested, and you didn’t actually find it difficult to resist temptation (because of your inherent goodness, good habits, humility or because of God’s grace, or the prayers of others), then I have news for you: you haven’t experienced your toughest test yet. Doubt me at your peril.

I will never forget the woman who pointed out to me, as if I were obviously lacking knowledge about faith and morals, that Christians need not worry too much about lust, because “Christ changes you.”

When she said this, in her superior way, it was one of those moments. Does this happen to you? It was one of those times when someone says something which is so utterly wrong-headed that you think to yourself: where do I even begin? There are so many things wrong here that I need a moment to think about how to tackle all of the embedded errors. Should I begin here, or should I begin there or there? Yet at the same time, I realize, from the level of arrogance or condescension of the speaker, that it really doesn’t matter what I say. She’s already written me off. At times like this, I am just dumbfounded. I don’t have an all-purpose retort at the ready to use in such situations. Do you?

Of course Christ changes people! But he doesn’t remove all the challenges. We still have the inclination to sin, and we still have the opportunity to sin. We are still tempted, as was Christ. If he was not spared, why would or should we be? The truth is, nobody gets through life without that really, really, tough exam — that exam which has only one question: “Will you choose what is right or will you choose what is wrong?”

One question. Does that make it easy?

Sin is like standing in front of a beautiful tree full of glossy, ripe plums. True, it’s not your tree, but look: here is a perfect and ripe plum within reach. It’s almost as if it’s meant to be, and the truth is, you’re hungry. And probably nobody would ever miss it, or know that it was you who took it.

One of the first poems that I ever really noticed was by William Carlos Williams:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

 

It was a long time ago that I first read that. It is a “sorry-not sorry” poem. Effective, but I cannot say that I admire it. The speaker flaunts and revels in his choice, and the “Forgive me” is pure arrogance.

And it strikes me now as not coincidental that it was plums, the only fruit I never eat anymore. I won’t even touch it.

In any case, let’s go back to the child. The child resists. The child resists the sins which were committed by his or her parent(s). In this context, you can solve the riddle. In this context, you can understand the meaning. Let me explain.

When we read that God “will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation,” we must understand the reason. God is not doing this as a way of punishing the children and grandchildren and so on. He is doing this to allow a rematch. A rematch! Same sin, different soul. Through this rule, God says, “Double or Nothing.” The contest begins again.

The challenge repeats. Does the failure repeat?

The failure may repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

But then, finally, there is a victor. There is, finally, a child who wins, who overcomes the temptation. There is finally a child in the family tree who walks away from the fruit.

And then what? Can you guess? Should I tell you? I will.

It’s called “the surprise.” In his generosity, God counts the child’s win as a win for everyone on the family tree, going forwards and backwards. He shares the win with the father, the mother, the grandmother, the grandfather, the great-grandfather, the great-grandmother, the great-great-grandfather and the great-great-grandmother, and on and on and on and on. How does he do this? I have taken you this far, but can I explain the mystical way that this happens?

God breaks out the champagne. He breaks out the little crackers with cheese and slices of sausage. He passes the smoked salmon and the pate. There’s even one of those hollowed out big loaves filled with spinach dip on the table.

He says with a big smile, “Aren’t you all glad it was double-or nothing? Aren’t you glad? It was a good idea?”

And we all say that it was very, very, good.

 

Post 329

Family Counselling, Part 5:
Jacob's Past

BLOGGER: Your family is made up of twelve sons and one daughter. There are many half-sibling relationships here. What about you, Jacob. Do you have siblings, or half-siblings?

JACOB: I have only one brother, my twin.

BLOGGER: A twin! Are you an identical twin? Who is older?

JACOB: No, we are not identical. My brother was born first, and the main difference everyone notices when they compare us is that he is very hairy and I am like this. He always was, and that’s even how he got his name, Esau. I was born second, and they named me Jacob, because I was holding Esau’s heel as we left our mother’s womb.

BLOGGER: I suppose it was a surprise to everyone that there were two of you?

JACOB: My mother — her name is Rebekah — told me that when she was carrying us, she suffered a lot. She thought it was one baby, but the Lord told her that it was twins. She heard, “Two nations are in your womb. Two peoples, born of you, shall be divided. The one shall be stronger than the other. The elder shall serve the younger.”

BLOGGER: Wow, and so that’s how she found out she was carrying twins?

JACOB: She knew that way.

BLOGGER: And then you were born holding your elder brother’s ankle?

JACOB: His heel.

BLOGGER: Right, his heel. So did you quarrel a lot when you were children? Was there discord right from the beginning?

JACOB: We had moments of disagreement, but probably it was no worse than what one would find between any siblings. We certainly had different personalities. Esau was always more outspoken and loud. I was quieter. And as we grew older, our interests diverged. Esau’s a hunter, and he’s good at it. I never liked hunting.

BLOGGER: Okay, anything else?

JACOB: I don’t remember anything outstanding or particularly memorable about the years of our youth.

BLOGGER: Okay.

JACOB: Until the time of the blessing.

BLOGGER: The blessing?

JACOB: Before he died, my father gave me the blessing of the elder son.

BLOGGER: But you’re the second-born right?

JACOB: I am.

BLOGGER: But he gave you the blessing for the elder?

JACOB: He did.

BLOGGER: He got mixed up?

JACOB: Yes — well, he got tricked.

BLOGGER: Your father got tricked? He thought you were your elder brother?

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: How did that happen? You said you’re not identical twins.

JACOB: No, but he was blind by then.

BLOGGER: Your father was blind?

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: So you stepped in to take your elder brother’s blessing?

JACOB: I did so only to make my mother happy. She’s the one who had this idea.

BLOGGER: Your mother wanted you to take your brother’s blessing?

JACOB: Absolutely.

BLOGGER: Wait. She wanted this? Why? She liked you better than your twin brother?

JACOB: I had a special bond with my mother. Our temperaments, you could say, were more similar.

BLOGGER: But what about Esau? She didn’t love Esau the same way?

JACOB: Of course she loved him, but Esau had our father.

BLOGGER: What do you mean? Don’t tell me that your father preferred Esau?

JACOB: Oh yes, yes, of course he did.

BLOGGER: He did? Are you sure? Why would he?

JACOB: I know this for sure, yes.

BLOGGER: But why?

JACOB: He liked the game — the meat that Esau could hunt and prepare.

BLOGGER: You must be kidding!

JACOB: I speak plainly.

BLOGGER: You’re saying that your father — what was his name?

JACOB: Isaac. His name was Isaac.

BLOGGER: You’re saying that your father preferred Esau because Esau was a hunter and brought your father meals made of the game he had hunted? And that meanwhile, your mother preferred you because you were more suited to her temperament?

JACOB: This is how it was.

BLOGGER: So then, back to the blessing, it was your mother’s idea to have you take the blessing which your father, Isaac, had intended for your twin brother?

JACOB: She said to me, “Jacob, listen to me. I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food, that I may eat it, and bless you before the Lord before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. Go to the flock, and fetch me two good young goats, that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he loves; and you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.”

BLOGGER: So what did you say? I guess you agreed?

JACOB: Well, not at first. I said, “My brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” I was afraid.

BLOGGER: What did she say?

JACOB: She just insisted. She said, “Upon me be your curse, my son; only obey my word, and go, fetch them to me.”

BLOGGER: Then what?

JACOB: I did not argue with her. I did as she directed. I went and brought her the animals, and she prepared them.

BLOGGER: And then?

JACOB: And then I brought the food in to my father, and I asked for the blessing.

BLOGGER: And he gave you the blessing?

JACOB: Well, not at first. He said, “Who are you, my son?”

BLOGGER: And what did you say? I guess you told him that you were Esau?

JACOB: I did. I said, “I am Esau your first-born. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that you may bless me.”

BLOGGER: So did he?

JACOB: Well, not at first. He was suspicious because of my voice, and I guess because of how soon I had the food. He said, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?”

BLOGGER: What did you say?

JACOB: I said, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.”

BLOGGER: Is that a lie? So then what happened after that?

JACOB: Well, then it was worse, because he wanted to touch me to see if I really was Esau!

BLOGGER: Oh boy. Exactly what you had been worried about.

JACOB: Indeed.

BLOGGER: So what happened?

JACOB: Well, he felt my arms, but he thought that I was Esau, because my mother had put onto me the skins of the young goats. She covered my hands and the back of my neck with them.

BLOGGER: So this is a complete deceit.

JACOB: My mother is very intelligent. She thought of everything.

BLOGGER: But your heart must have been pounding.

JACOB: I was certain I would be found out.

BLOGGER: But?

JACOB: But he didn’t know it. He only asked me one more time if I were Esau, and when I said “I am,” he just gave me the blessing.

BLOGGER: Do you remember the words of the blessing?

JACOB: Of course. They are engraved upon me now.

BLOGGER: What’s the blessing, if you don’t mind my asking?

JACOB: “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed! May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be every one who curses you, and blessed be every one who blesses you!”

BLOGGER: So that’s the blessing which he had intended for Esau?

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: In the blessing, he mentions how you smell. So he smelled you too?

JACOB: He said, “Come and kiss me,” and when I did, he smelled my garments.

BLOGGER: But how could you smell like Esau?

JACOB: My mother gave me Esau’s clothing to wear.

BLOGGER: Oh!

JACOB: Yes, his best clothing, actually.

BLOGGER: I must say, it’s almost as if your mother had been planning this for years.

JACOB: I don’t know, but she was probably remembering the words given to her by the Lord.

BLOGGER: You mean about the two nations at war in the womb?

JACOB: Yes, and: “The elder will serve the younger.”

BLOGGER: Oh, I missed that part. The prophesy was that the elder twin would serve the younger twin?

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: So you think that her memory of those words may have influenced her actions in substituting you for the blessing?

JACOB: I don’t know. I cannot speak to this. I can only say what happened.

BLOGGER: And what about you? You went along with all of this. What did you think of this plan? Did you agree with it? Were you happy at the prospect of receiving the first born’s blessing?

JACOB: At first, I was confused at my mother’s directions, but then I thought it was good.

BLOGGER: Good?

JACOB: Yes, and also just.

BLOGGER: Just? Really! In what way could it have been just?

JACOB: Esau didn’t care about his birthright. He had already sold it to me.

BLOGGER: What?

JACOB: He traded his birthright to me for a bowl of lentil stew.

BLOGGER: How could he have? When?

JACOB: It was several months before the day of the blessing, but I don’t remember exactly when. He had come in from hunting, and he was very, very hungry. He saw that I had just made some stew. It was ordinary stew, with lentils and vegetables, but he was famished. So he said to me, “Give me some of that stew.” I said to him, “I will give it to you in exchange for your birthright.”

BLOGGER: What did he say? I guess he agreed?

JACOB: He said, “What use is my birthright to me if I perish for lack of food?” So you see how little he valued his birthright.

BLOGGER: And so you felt that —

JACOB: That it was mine, yes.

BLOGGER: Because of that conversation?

JACOB: Yes, of course.

BLOGGER: Okay, let me think here. So you actually had no qualms about your mother’s plan, because you felt that the birthright already belonged to you.

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: Wow. Okay.

JACOB: Esau could have refused to make the bargain.

BLOGGER: Right, but what about what your father wanted? Did your father ever find out that he gave the blessing to you, instead of Esau?

JACOB: He found out right away. Right after he had eaten the meal and the bread, right after he had drunk the wine, Esau came in with the meal that he had prepared, using the game he had hunted.

BLOGGER: Oh my.

JACOB: Yes. He went in to our father, and asked for his blessing.

BLOGGER: What happened? Did you see?

JACOB: No, I didn’t see, but I could hear the conversation from where I was. And my mother saw everything and told me later. She told me that Isaac my father began shaking terribly when he realized what had happened. He said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him?—yes, and he shall be blessed.”

BLOGGER: So it was too late to “undo” the blessing?

JACOB: Too late, of course. The blessing had been spoken.

BLOGGER: So then they were both upset? Both your father and Esau?

JACOB: They were both upset. Esau cried out very loudly, very bitterly. He said to our father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” And my father said, “Your brother came with guile, and he has taken away your blessing.”

BLOGGER: And then what?

JACOB: Then Esau said about me, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”

BLOGGER: Indeed. Now did you not feel guilty in all of this?

JACOB: Guilty? I don’t know how I felt. I knew it was too late for Esau to take away the blessing I had received.

BLOGGER: So you felt like you succeeded?

JACOB: My mother’s plan had worked, yes.

BLOGGER: And so then Esau got nothing?

JACOB: My father initially said that he had nothing left to give. So you see, that would have been me, with nothing. In that sense, I do not regret it.

BLOGGER: You say, “initially,” so does that mean that he did find something left for Esau?

JACOB: Yes, he did. At first, when Esau asked him, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” my father said, “Behold, I have made him your lord, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” But then, Esau asked him again. He said, “Is it the case that you have only one blessing that you can bestow?” He cried out so loudly, and he begged him, “Bless me, even me, also, O my father.” He was crying.

BLOGGER: And you really felt no guilt?

JACOB: I suppose I did, but it was tempered with the knowledge that he was standing in my own shoes.

BLOGGER: Alright, but your father Isaac did bless him?

JACOB: Yes. His blessing was that he would live by the sword, and that he would serve me. But it said that when he broke loose from me, he would be free.

BLOGGER: So the blessing spoke of a day when he would be free from your control.

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: Wow, this is a lot to absorb.

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: There are certainly a lot of parallels between your past and your present.

JACOB: Perhaps.

BLOGGER: Well, don’t you see it? You have been so angry about how your father-in-law put Leah in place of Rachel on the wedding day, so that you didn’t marry the woman you had wanted to marry, but you yourself stood in for your twin brother! And your disguise was far more elaborate than Leah’s! She wore a veil, and that’s normal on a wedding day, but who wears someone else’s entire outfit along with goat’s skin?

JACOB: It was my mother who supplied these! I would not have conceived of such a plan!

BLOGGER: Are you sure? After all, you asked Esau for the birthright at his weakest moment!

JACOB: But he didn’t have to agree!

BLOGGER: True, but you didn’t have to ask!

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: But look, I understand that the situation was very imbalanced here. Your father prefers your brother, and all of this is very open. I think it would be painful for you.

JACOB: I knew it was that way.

BLOGGER: As in, you knew he preferred Esau?

JACOB: Yes.

BLOGGER: Right. And I want to bring that into the present, and into your approach to your relationships. You have a favouritism towards Rachel that persists even after she has died, and —

JACOB: Rachel has done nothing wrong! We cannot speak ill of her!

BLOGGER: I am not criticizing Rachel. I am saying that you need to reconsider your approach. Rachel is gone, and nothing can harm her. Leah is alive, and, as you said, has always been faithful to you. Leah can be hurt when you reject her.

JACOB: I am not rejecting her.

BLOGGER: Well, there are many forms of rejection. Your father’s behaviour was perhaps a form of rejection.

JACOB: I will not speak ill of my father.

BLOGGER: That’s nice. But it’s good for us to notice what happened before, because it seems to highlight what you are doing now. And we want to talk about the family dynamics that are occurring now, right?

JACOB: I guess that’s why we’re here.

BLOGGER: Yes. What I am thinking is this: your approach with your sons is also questionable. You say that you would give your life for any of them —

JACOB: I would!

BLOGGER: And I believe you, but my point is that you are engaging in a sort of exaggerated favouritism when it comes to Joseph, and probably Benjamin somewhat as well.

JACOB: What do you mean?

BLOGGER: I mean that your father neglected you, because he was so focused on Esau, and in the same way, you are neglecting your other sons, because you are so focused on Joseph.

JACOB: No, this is untrue! There is no neglect! When have I let them go hungry? When have they been without shelter? I have provided for their every need!

BLOGGER: But perhaps they have been, in a sense, without a father?

JACOB: I am their father! In every sense!

BLOGGER: Did you experience the love of your own father?

JACOB: Your question is now, what?

BLOGGER: Did you experience the love of your father?

JACOB: Did I experience the love of my father?

BLOGGER: Yes.

JACOB: What kind of question is that?

BLOGGER: I don’t know. Is it an unanswerable question?

(Silence.)

JACOB: Look, this is not something I wondered. I did not say, “Does my father love me? Does my father not love me?” I am his son, and he is my father, and that was all.

BLOGGER: Did you experience the love of your mother?

JACOB: Of course! Of course I did! I still do!

BLOGGER: Oh! And you answer so readily!

JACOB: But this is a different question!

BLOGGER: It seems to be!

JACOB: She is a woman! It is entirely different! It is in her nature! A woman is tender, affectionate, and so on.

BLOGGER: But it is not in a father’s nature?

JACOB: No!

BLOGGER: But then what about Esau and your father? What about you and Joseph?

(Silence.)

JACOB: I don’t know! I don’t know! You tell me! Who understands everything hidden? How can I know?

BLOGGER: It’s true. These things are mostly hidden, and when we want to understand, it’s difficult.

(Silence.)

BLOGGER: But what I am concluding is that it seems there is a sinful behaviour that is repeating here. It’s not being addressed, and so the result is a pattern that’s going from generation to generation.

JACOB: Sinful?

BLOGGER: Yes, don’t you think so?

JACOB: Sin?

BLOGGER: Yes.

JACOB: I see what you are doing, but nothing will be gained with such speculation and questions in the dark! Blind and pointless musings! No matter what my father did or did not do, I will not speak ill of him. I will not speak ill of my father.

BLOGGER: I guess we’re different like that.

JACOB: Pardon me?

BLOGGER: Ah, nothing.

 

Post 328

Family Counselling, Part 4:
Wrestling with Jacob

BLOGGER: I had a question for you, Jacob.

JACOB: I am ready. What is it?

BLOGGER: Tell me, how do you know that Reuben is your son?

JACOB: What? Reuben? Reuben, this is my son! He is my first born! Why do you ask, “How do I know?”

BLOGGER: Well, I wanted to check.

JACOB: Of course, he is mine.

BLOGGER: And Simeon?

JACOB: Simeon, too, yes, of course, he is my son.

BLOGGER: What about Levi?

JACOB: Levi, yes, he is my son!

BLOGGER: How do you know?

JACOB: What is this questioning? Of course I know. I know!

BLOGGER: But how do you know? Mothers always know, but fathers cannot know in the same way, of course.

JACOB: Levi is mine — these are all mine, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah! And Is’sahar, Zebulun!

BLOGGER: Those are sons of Leah, yes, I know, but paternity is not always so simple.

JACOB: Oh, now you are too close to offence! I know that Leah has always been faithful to me!

LEAH: Here is the first sensible thing I heard out of you.

BLOGGER: And I believe you.

JACOB: What is not to believe?

BLOGGER: But what about these other men, from the maids of your wives? How can you be sure that they are yours? Were the maids not free to find husbands of their own?

JACOB: But, the sons are mine! I know they are mine! Look at them. Look at their faces! It is my own face! Look at them! How can you say they are not mine? These are all mine: Dan, Nephtali, Gad and Asher. How can you question this?

BLOGGER: Well, the situation was so — wild. I don’t know how anybody could keep track.

JACOB: “Keep track!” I could “keep track.” I knew my own household! How could I not know my own household? It is you who doesn’t understand. For you, this is just names on a paper, but for me — for me this is my own flesh and blood!

BLOGGER: Your own flesh and blood.

JACOB: I dare not give an oath, but I answer you, yes, of course these are my own, my own flesh and blood, every single one of them. And Dinah too.

BLOGGER: An oath is still just words though?

JACOB: Woman, are you in your right mind? Have I not suffered enough through your questions?

BLOGGER: What would you be willing to do to prove that they are yours? I know you cannot show me any documentation or laboratory results.

JACOB: Woman!

BLOGGER: What would you be willing to do to prove that they are yours?

JACOB: For this, what? I can give anything. Anything! I would give my beard and the head wearing this beard for any of my sons. And you tell me, if you are so clever, who would say that, except for a true father? For any one of these, I would give my life.

BLOGGER: Ah, yes, then you must be their true father.

JACOB (with exasperated and dramatic sigh): Finally!

BLOGGER: So you are the father of not only Joseph and Benjamin, but also of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Nephtali, Gad, Asher, Is’sahar, and Zebulun. And Dinah.

JACOB: Yes, yes! Has my story changed, that you ask me everything one hundred times and then one hundred times again? It is amazing I submit myself to such questioning. Your methods, I don’t understand. In fact, as the head of this family, I speak for all of us: none of us understand your questions about paternity.

(Silence.)

JACOB: This isn’t all about the coat, is it?

 

 

Post 327

Family Counselling, Part 3:
Reflections on Favouritism

Why does a parent bond with one child better than with another child?
Why does a parent empathize with one child better than with another child?

Favouritism is natural.
Favouritism is human.
Favouritism is mysterious.

It’s how we operate.
It’s how we relate to friends, acquaintances, and family members.

So many variations.
The child reminds you of yourself, so you like him more, or you like him less.
The child is the exact opposite of you, so you like him more, or you like him less.
The child is successful, so you like him more, or you like him less.
The child reminds you of your ex, so you like her more, or you like her less.
The child misbehaves, so you like her more, or you like her less.
The child is so ‘perfect,’ so you like her more, or you like her less.

Some parents believe they understand themselves.
They believe they know why they favour one child over another.
Other parents can’t figure out why they favour one child over another.

Let me say:
Favouritism is only a problem when the parent doesn’t see it as a problem.
Favouritism is serious when the parent is satisfied with a state of imbalance.
Favouritism is dangerous when the parent feels that the favouritism is entirely justified.
The bad parent says, “This is the way it is. I prefer him/her because of X and Y, and that’s just the way it is. It’s not my fault. It’s how I am; it’s how my child is.”
That’s no good. It’s dreadful, actually, to not care about the imbalance.

I am not worried about favouritism if the parent is worried about it.
Why not?
It’s because a worried parent will think about the imbalance and try to remedy it.

A worried parent wants to know what advice I have to give.

So here it is:

Dear Worried Parent,

First, don’t despair, or think you have an unusual problem. Many parents are drawn to one child more than to another.

Second, continue to show your love to the child you love easily (the “Loved Child,” let’s say).
Do not become cold and distant from the Loved Child in a misguided effort to balance things out.

Third, amplify your efforts with the other one, the “Unloved” Child.
You must work harder in every way.
Try everything.
The fact that things are easier with the other one is no answer.
Don’t blame the Unloved Child when your methods, which work so well with the Loved Child, go nowhere.
You must make every effort to understand the Unloved Child in the way that God understands the Unloved Child.
With effort, you will be able to melt away the barriers between yourself and your child.
I tell you, it is very likely that some of the barriers are in your own heart.
These barriers prevent you from appreciating all of the mysterious aspects of your child’s personality.
Talk with your child in the way that you would talk with your best friend.
Win your child over, using all of the techniques of true love.
Be inventive. Be daring. Be brave. Be silly.
Do not worry about being in control and in charge and all-knowing.
Often barriers between parent and child exist because the parent tries to maintain an image.
You could call it professionalism, but I might call it posturing.
Remove all of these artificial things. Break all the rules.
Forget about being tough and being strong.
Be open instead.
Why do you let your friend see more of the real you than your child sees?
The truth is that your child already knows a great deal more about your weaknesses than you realize.
So you must be humble. Humility is the main thing, actually. And honesty is part of humility.
So often we are dishonest because we are too proud or ashamed or embarrassed to admit how weak we are.
When you are honest about who you are, your child will also become more open.
Do not wait for your child to come to you. That is folly.
You are the parent. You must always be present to your child.
Never close the doors upon your child. That is also wrong. Never give up on your child.
God does not give up on anyone, and part of his not giving up on you (his child), is his gift to you of this child, this Unloved Child who will teach you to overcome yourself.