There are some stories that, no matter how many times you hear them, hit you every time. That’s the beauty of story, even when you fall in love with a story and know it like the back of your hand (what does that phrase really mean anyway?), you can still experience new discoveries when you pay attention.
The other day, I was reading the story of Isaac, the promised son of Abraham in the Bible. Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. They seemed like the proverbial opposite brothers. One was smart, one was strong. One was loved by their mother, one was loved by their father. One was a homebody who stayed home, one was a rugged hunter who found his place in the wilderness.
One day, Jacob was home cooking some stew when Esau came in from being out in the woods. Esau had worked up quite an appetite being out in the fields, so he was hungry for just about anything. Well, the “anything” that he smelled was the stew that his brother was cooking on the stove, so he told his brother, “Hurry up, give me some of that stew. I’m famished.”
Sibling rivalry being as it is, Jacob wouldn’t simply give his brother some stew without anything in return. Instead, he thought of the best exchange that he could think of: his brother’s inheritance. I’m not sure if it seemed like a long shot when Jacob said it, but I imagine that he figured he would start the negotiations as high as possible.
Imagine his surprise when Esau agreed to it.
Yup, you read that right. Esau agreed to sell his birthright (his inheritance) to his brother in exchange for some food. Talk about hungry. Talk about impatient.
It’s easy to look at this story and think, “Wow, what an idiot!” We can quickly claim that we would NEVER do something like this…
We start to think about it a little.
How many times do I sell my birthright for something temporary and fleeting? How many times do I sacrifice what’s very good in order to have something that’s fleeting and mediocre?
When I really stop to think about the story, when I stop to examine myself and ask myself some serious questions, I begin to realize that I’m not as innocent as I might think that I am.
There have been plenty of times that I’ve chosen the simple and easy in exchange for what’s best. I choose the immediate rather than waiting for what I know is best. And all of a sudden, I’m not quite as saintly looking as I thought that I was.
While our culture emphasizes the immediate, good things (and great things) rarely come so immediately. Anything worth working for is worth waiting for. Anything that can come so immediately can most likely be taken away just as immediately as well.
Next time that I eat stew, I think this lesson will hit me even harder.