It’s the start of February, the shortest month of the year. The starting of a new month always results in confusion for me. Changing the month in the date takes me atleast a week to get into doing properly, and just as I’ve got into my stride I have to change it again. Don’t even get me started on 2012. Nightmare.
It’s been a long week, projects at uni are starting to kick off, and classes are proceeding amicably. I know what I have to do for my resit module and now it’s just a case of getting of my backside and doing some work.
Life is good once again. I’ve solved the proble of what to give up for lent, I’m saving money and feel healthy.
Everything starts off going well for Jacob, he and his people are relocating, they’re leaving behind false gods and idols.
Putting on new clothes, clean clothes is a symbolic act referenced and used through out the Bible. From early Genesis were God gives Adam and Eve clean, new clothes to hide their disgrace, right up to Revelations where
New Century Version (NCV)
7 Let us rejoice and be happy
and give God glory,
because the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and the Lamb’s bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her to wear.”
(The fine linen means the good things done by God’s holy people.)
Clothes as a symbol are used a lot in the Bible. So when Jacob and his people put on new clothes, it a symbol of a fresh start. Clean, healthy, the troubles of the past behind them.
Seems good right? Well, time unfortunately catches up on them, and there’s a death in the family. Death is always, always hard. It seems impossible for anything good to come from death. Fortunately, it only seems that way. Death is not a good thing, but like every cloud, it has it’s silver linings. People are brought closer together, to support each other after death.
Lights are brightest in the darkness.
Later on in the passage, God re-affirms Jacob’s change of name. Finalises it so to speak. Although, he still referred to Jacob, his identity is now Israel. That’s what he is now, but he will become so much more. The father of a nation, a people and so much more. It’s mind blowing.
Just as this new identity has been found, it’s tested, in a two fold event. A birth, and a death. A bright moment, and a dark moment together.
Benjamin, is born, but his mother, Rachel dies as a result.
Rachel was everything to Jacob. He worked for 14 years so they could be together, and the love that he had for her, is clearly shown in how he treats her children once she has died. In contrast he treats the sons of his other wife poorly, and they act out several times because of it.
Benjamin becomes the center of Jacob’s life, we see that just in the way he names the boy. “Benjamin” favoured son.
It’s hard to know what to take from this all. I think this is all about identity and how we are defined, Jacob’s identity is God is given a name. A description, and it’s defined more by the challenges he is presented. Humans don’t come across well when everything is going well. When things are good, mostly, we tend to idle, why work when everything is alright?
It’s when things take a turn for the worst that our good qualities shine, friendship, loyalty, passion, dedication and generosity.
Identity is what defines us, by definition. “The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.” That is identity.
So, what is important about identity? Well, the way I see it we all have three identities.
From least important
1) How people see you and recognise you. So, are you the funny guy everybody is always laughing with/at (depending on how you use the word funny). Are you the quiet one that doesn’t often contribute , but when you do, it’s worth while listening to?
This form of identity is tied up in two ways. It’s dependant on who YOU are, and who the people SEEING you are. The same person can be seen as two distinctly different identities by two observers.
You might think your best friend is funny, charming and witty. Everybody else might think he/she is a jerk. Same person, different views.
This identity is the least important, because it’s the one that changes often. You can’t build yourself on something that is always shifting.
2) How you see yourself. This is a more solid identity, because as your identity in yourself grows and changes, it’s because you are growing and changing. Again though, you can’t build yourself on yourself. Building yourself requires a firm, solid foundation. Look at tents, never try pitching a tent on a marsh, or bog. You just sink in when things shift around a little. That’s why it’s hard to be a strong person when you’re depending on yourself for your own identity.
3) How God sees you. I know, you weren’t expecting this one. God is unchanging, and He sees everything. So when you are born, God sees everything you will do. Everything you could do. He knows you inside and out, before you can even think.
God’s vision of you, the identity you have in Him is rock solid. It can’t change because He’s already seen all your good and bad qualities. So, when it comes to identifying who you are, you don’t need to depend on the shifting views of society, or even the twisted version that you see in the mirror.
Depend on God for your identity, build on who you are in Christ. Have a firm foundation, and you can build a good, strong life.
Living life isn’t a mystery. Living life isn’t about what others think of you, or what you think of yourself. Life is finding yourself in God, and building on that.