By Mike Baird
Faculty, College of Theology
And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. (Genesis 25:23)
The Conception: How Quickly Things Go Wrong
The Jacob Journal is a reflection on the life and times of the biblical character of Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah. For background on this journal, please read The Jacob Journal: Introduction.
My name is Jacob. My father is Isaac, son of Abraham. My mother is Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean. I have a twin brother named Esau, who was born first. This is my family.
This journal is my account of the life of a troubled family. I suppose we have not had any more trouble than most families, maybe less than some, but when it is your own family going through struggle and pain, it really doesn’t matter too much.
If you read any further, I hope you will learn some things about hurting families, which are of course made up of hurting wives and mothers, hurting husbands and fathers, hurting children.
My Family Chemistry
It has always amazed me the chemistry (or mathematics) of a family. One person can hurt x or y amount. If that person is in a family, he is living with people who also hurt y or z amount.
But when you put those people together, the pain is not simply x+y or x+y+z. It is more like x times y times z, and even that equation does not describe how bad things get sometimes. Of course, the opposite is true. The lives of two (or more) people in a family can flow together, like chemicals in a test tube, and produce a fragrant perfume.
Such is the family, or at least my family.
My Early Days
I have been a problem child since before my birth, so I am told. My parents have always sought to live by God’s blessing, but I guess they were not prepared when the “blessing” finally arrived.
They prayed earnestly for a child. In our culture it is important to have children, especially male children. So my parents prayed and God gave them two blessings, my brother Esau and me.
But how quickly things go wrong.
The record states that, “The children struggled together within her.” Esau and I were at it even before we were born. To this day, I cannot tell you whether we were struggling against one another or whether we were each fighting our own battle and we just happened to be in the same womb. I suspect that it was a little of both, since our family life has been a lot of both.
All my life, from childhood on, I have wondered why life is filled with so much struggle. My brother and I have fought over such petty things, such as a bowl of soup and over such weighty matters like the blessing of our father and inheriting the family fortune.
My Personal Struggle
I have struggled with my own soul – my thoughts, my desires, my greed, my habit of telling lies and deceiving others, especially my own family. I look back to my earliest existence, to a time even before I was born, before I knew what I was or what I was doing and there is struggle.
Actually, the greatest struggle I have is with the haunting question, “Is it my fault?” Am I the primary cause for all the upset in my family all these years? Within the answer to these questions lays a blessing or a curse –a life filled with blessing or a life lived under the curse.
Here’s what I know for sure about the answer to that question: God gave me to my parents.
My Mother’s Struggle
I don’t know what your parents were like before you were born, but I know mine actually prayed that God would give them a child. My brother Esau and I were God’s answer to my parents’ prayer.
Also, I know for sure that my birth helped to take away my mother’s shame. It is an embarrassment and shameful in our culture to be barren. I must confess that I don’t remember if my mother ever told me in so many words what a blessing I was by just being born.
In fact, the record states that her first words concerning the pregnancy were, “Why am I this way?” I suppose her doubts and questions arose because Esau and I fought so much in the womb. Maybe she put her soft, gentle hands on her tummy and said, “Children, be quiet. Your father and I are here. We love you. We will take care of you. Do not worry. Do not fight.”
Maybe she did, but I don’t know that for sure. I do know that even before I was born there were questions and doubts in my parents’ minds about me. The struggle was not mine alone. I know that for sure.
My Relationship with God
I am so tempted to put the blame on God. When mother asked God why she was experiencing so much trouble with her pregnancy, He told her that Esau and I were going about it in the wrong way. “The one people shall be stronger than the other and the older shall serve the younger.”
That, of course, is not the way things are supposed to be. The younger serves the older. So, is it God’s fault I was born in so much turmoil and struggle? God is the one who made me stronger and smarter, despite the fact that Esau, being older than me, should be the stronger one.
Is God the one who made me so selfish and deceptive? Is God the one who decided that Esau and I would fight for so many years over who should become the patriarch?
Am I able to blame God for my struggles? Is God the one who set my life on a course filled with curses, like a path overgrown with briars? Was it He who removed His blessings from my life?
Or was God’s answer to my mother His way of saying, “I know what you are going through. I know what those two little boys are fighting over. I know your struggle and I can make it work for the good.”
Sometimes, more than anything I have ever wanted, I want to blame God for what happened to my family. Blaming Him seems to ease the hurt. At least the pain goes away for a while. Although, I have to wonder if I am blaming the very one who can help me most with my struggles.
Even though I have since learned a lot about myself, about families, about war and about peace, a question continues to surface: Why does there have to be so much fighting, so much conflict?
I still wonder why.
Part 2 of the Jacob Journal will be posted next week. If you’d like to learn more about the author, check out our recent blog post, Mike Baird: A Life Well-Invested.
About the Author
The 21st century author of this journal is Mike Baird, PhD, retired professor of Christian studies. The ideas and insights found here come from a life lived, not from a fantasy world. It is his prayer that you will see yourself mirrored in some of Jacob’s struggles and decisions, and that you will discover the timeless spiritual resources which Scripture and the Holy Spirit speaking through it have made available to us.
Dr. Baird originates from Glendale, AZ. He received his BA at Grand Canyon College (now GCU). His MDiv and PhD were completed at Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary, Fort Worth, TX (Go Cowboys!). He and his wife have three children and five grandchildren.
He has enjoyed teaching college students for the last 35 years. He is a member of First Southern Baptist Church, where he teaches a Bible study class on Sunday mornings and sings in the choir.
What he has enjoyed greatly over the years is participating in the Ethington Theatre Series as a guest actor. He has been in 27 productions, his favorites being the Shakespeare productions.
He encourages students to use their time at GCU to clarify and sharpen their sense of calling. You are here to equip for the work of the Kingdom. Don’t squander the opportunity.