As the New Year starts, I find myself, like many, taking an inventory of the things that I want to be different this year. Who does not enjoy the proverbial “do-over” that January 1st provides. The promises fly and the determination for change is expressed over and over, yet the truth for many of us is that this is just a short-lived moment and we soon settle back into lives of complacency. My thoughts today are not on this human weakness we all struggle with, but with those who would give anything for change that never comes, yet endure.
One of the Bible’s greatest stories, yet also the saddest, involves the final days of Isaac. He knew he was nearing the end of his life and called his son Esau to his bedside where he would pass on the blessing and inheritance to his eldest son. Isaac’s wife schemed with her youngest son Jacob to take what rightfully belonged to Esau. After using the feeble state of Isaac to their advantage, Jacob received what belonged to his older brother. When Esau arrived at his father’s side, he was heartbroken to find that his younger brother had stolen his birthright.
The Bible from there traces Jacob’s story, as he is the one who is part of Jesus’ lineage. I have found myself contemplating the life of Esau, the wronged brother, lately. What could he do after such a betrayal? He even asked his father to take back the blessing and speak it over him, but Isaac told him once the words were spoken there was nothing that could be done. Esau was stuck with a life in which over and over the betrayal of his brother would repeat in his mind. What impresses me most about Esau was what Esau chose to do. He just lived.
Some of the most beautiful verses in the Bible are found in Genesis 33:1-12. Jacob, after running from his home because he feared that Esau would kill him when their father died, has returned home. The Bible says that Esau and 400 of his men came to meet Jacob. Jacob was fairly sure Esau was going kill him and prepared for the worst. As the two brothers approach each other the most unexpected thing happened, the two men move toward each other, embrace, and begin to weep. Jacob looked at his brother and said, “When I look at you, I see the face of God”. What happened?
I think Esau did something that all of us need to be able to do if we are going to move forward in life. He made peace with what he could not change. Some would say that it was a beautiful example of forgiveness and I would agree, but I think it went much deeper. He had to give up his right to vengeance, anger, and the haunting feeling that followed him every day of that betrayal. To break the repetitive cycle of destructive emotions he had to face the fact that what was done was done, and nothing would ever change that.
How many times are we staring into the abyss of emotional turmoil seeking resolution to things that will never change? The apology that never comes, the recognition that is always withheld, or the justice that cannot be given. Can you count the times that you promised yourself that the next time it would be different, only to repeat your actions like an actor in an overdone play? To make peace with the unchangeable requires an acceptance of Paul’s statement that His grace is sufficient. This may be one of the most powerful truths in the Bible, some things may never change, but God can give a grace for you to move on and not let them destroy your future.
Esau learned this and when he finally meets up with his brother he was able to embrace him and weep. Nothing had changed. The blessing was still stolen, but Esau had internal peace. BTW…did anyone else notice that when Esau came out to meet Jacob he came with 400 of his men? I guess as he found his peace, he also found there was more than one way to receive a blessing.