I am Esau

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Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.  He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!”…Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”  “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said.  “What good is the birthright to me?”  But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.”  So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew.  He ate and drank, and then got up and left.  So Esau despised his birthright.  Genesis 25:29-34

I am Esau, and so are you.

How often do we make this trade…something that is a quick pleasure, a fleeting indulgence, in exchange for the eternal inheritance we have in Christ.  Did I lose you at “eternal inheritance”?  Let’s unpack this in real life:

Do I get up early to spend time in prayer (eternal value), or hit the snooze and enjoy the comfort of my bed (quick pleasure)?  Do I stop at Starbucks and go for that white chocolate mocha “because it’s Monday,” or do I make black coffee at home because #stewardship and to teach myself to find comfort in the Lord instead of sugar? 

Esau had his mind set on the flesh, and he was seeking to satisfy his most base and immediate desires.  Isn’t this the struggle?  Every day we fight against these pulls on our flesh, these things that will give immediate comfort, pleasure, or ease.  Maybe it’s that chocolate ice cream or a glass of wine that we just “need” at the end of a long day of self-discipline.  Maybe it’s pulling out our phones to check Instagram or Facebook for some quick idolatry of what others might be thinking of our posts.  Just me?  I am so quick to look for little things in which to find bits of comfort, and I am quick to justify them as “balance.”  A little for God, a little for me. 

We can minimize and justify a great many sins in the name of ‘self-care’ and ‘moderation’ or whatever word for entitlement you want to use; but underneath our refusal to let go of these things is a belief—a belief that God is not enough to truly satisfy. 

There are a few things that stand out to me about Esau in this narrative.  First, he has put himself in a vulnerable spot.  He is hungry, exhausted, and discontent with his circumstances.  He comes in the door with one thought:  feed my flesh.  He has evidently been starving his spirit as well as his flesh. 

Compare this with Jesus’s response when Satan came to him after fasting for 40 days in the desert.  Satan tempts him by saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”  And Jesus answers, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Jesus was hungry too, but He was content. He was filled by something else: “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)

As with so many of the Bible’s lessons, this narrative is more about the heart than about the actions themselves.  Is it wrong to be hungry and to eat food in response to said hunger?  Of course not.  But when the food comes at the cost of our inheritance that Jesus died on the cross to give us…the heart behind that exchange is wrought with sin. 

There is one more thing I find interesting about this account.  After Esau sells his birthright, he eats, drinks, and gets up and leaves.  And then it says “he despised his birthright.”  I can relate to this.  We think we need that thing…that one thing that, if we can just acquire it, would make us happy and satisfy our hearts.  And then we get it.  God says, here, beloved, have it.  Have the thing you think will bring you more happiness than Me.  And we do.  We take it in both hands and we drink deep and we delight in it, for a moment.  But as we wash it down, it leaves a bitter aftertaste of emptiness and of the knowledge that it is not enough.  We eat, we drink, we get up and leave.

But here’s where we can be different than Esau…we can be ready.  Before the hunger and fatigue set in, we can be armed with contentment, fully satisfied in what God has already given us.  We can make our choices based on our belief that God really—really!—IS enough.  When we start to see our smallest choices as an opportunity to choose God over ourselves, it is truly liberating to realize we actually don’t need all of these things we think we need.  It’s so simple, it just might be the answer we’ve all been looking for.  God alone.  Nothing else.  Give it all, keep nothing, gain everything.  You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

The Prayer I Meant to Pray, for My Daughter

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As I sit here watching my 6-year old take her ice skating lesson, I catch myself asking God to help her be successful in passing her test.  I’m asking Him to help her listen to her coach, apply the instruction, and succeed in mastering the skills she needs to learn to pass when she takes her test today.  I’m asking Him to make the coaches amiable so they might overlook any small mistakes.  I’m asking God for these things because, in my mind, success defined this way (passing her test) would mean her happiness.  She’s failed this same test twice already, and she was so disappointed each time.  I hate to see her disappointed.  My mommy heart wants to see her happy, and another failure won’t elicit that result, at least not in the short term. 

You might be thinking, “What’s wrong with praying for those things?” Well, nothing.  It is perfectly okay to pray for these things…But what stands out to me as I pray is the part that is missing.  It’s the part of the prayer where I acknowledge that she is His first, and mine second, and that He knows what she needs before she even asks for it (Matthew 6:8).  It is the part where I step back and see the big picture, and acknowledge that maybe failing a test 3 times produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:4). 

How many times has God shown me His character and love through my failures?  And how many through easy wins? 

What is the lesson that is most important for my child to learn? There are so many life lessons to be learned through skating, through sports in general.  It’s hard to think of a better tool for teaching perseverance, obedience, submission to authority, character in failure, or accepting consequences for our actions.  There are so many worthy things for her to learn through this experience; all of them edifying, and all of them able to teach her an attribute of God.  But the most important of all may be a lesson for her mother.  A lesson to remember how God defines success. 

See, because God is sovereign, success for Him is a given.  It’s guaranteed.  So with God, it’s not about the finish line.  He knows handing us a gold medal won’t teach us anything.  God measures our success by our hearts, by our obedience to Him, and our reliance on Him.  In relying on His strength and trusting in His wisdom, we are free to become everything He intended for us to be. 

God sees through the lens of eternity, and knows that failure is a key ingredient for producing perseverance, which we will need if we are to fight against the powers of darkness in this ever-darkening world.  Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. —James 1:4 NIV

So, I change my prayer for her to pass her test into a prayer for her to know these truths in her heart:  I want her to know she has immeasurable value and worth before she even wakes up in the morning, long before she ever steps on that ice.  I want her to know that she could fall every 3 seconds, and I would still think she is the most amazing thing I have ever seen.  I want her to know that win or lose, stand or fall, pass or fail, she is God’s precious daughter whom I love more than I could ever tell her.  And I want her to know that no accomplishment here on earth, no matter how monumental, will ever compare to the indescribable joy of being with Jesus in glory one day. 

I pray that she knows all of these things, and I still pray that she will pass her test.  Except, it doesn’t have to be today.  I pray that, when she has learned the portion of diligence and tenacity that God deems requisite, she would know the joy of accomplishment and who supplied it.  And that she would celebrate a thousand times more than she would have if she’d gotten it right the first time. 

Of course, she passed.  Because, you know…God’s got style.