Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Could I Play Favorites?

I have been working on a project dealing with the Biblical character of Rebekah (from Genesis) and I have to admit she is one I struggle with. In Genesis we are told that she gives birth to twins but it seems that she and her husband, Isaac, each have a favorite. Esau is his father's favorite; Jacob is his mother's. Over the course of their story Jacob, with the help of his mother, ends up cheating his twin out of some of the benefits of being firstborn...his birthright, his blessing.

And as I read the story everyone loses...the brothers' relationship is broken...Rebekah has to be separated from her favorite son...Isaac, having been deceived himself, must live with the reality of what he has taken from Esau. In reading scripture and in learning from church tradition, the difficulties of this story are explained away. We are told that God works in different ways than the world, thus using the younger rather than the firstborn. We, in Judeo-Christian traditions, follow the lineage of Jacob for telling our story, so we are told to be invested in his success. We are told that this is God's will and Rebekah is just helping it happen. We are told many things.

But, as a mother, I still struggle with Rebekah (and Isaac) and the overt favoritism that is shown. But, it's not fair to just read her story and criticize Rebekah. See, my struggle isn't only about Rebekah, it's a struggle with the question of whether or not I could be put in a position where I would choose one of my children over the other.

Is it possible that at some point I could act on behalf of one of my children even when it was to the detriment of the other? I understand loving children differently according to their different needs. I understand loving different things about your children. In fact, Katie at The Baby Factory ( talked today about the wonderful differences between her twins that she celebrates and I so related to that. But, could I choose one child if it meant not choosing the other? I don't think so. At least I can't imagine it.

In fact, just the other night as tornado sirens were sounding and a tornado was said to have been spotted not far from our home, I had a moment of wondering how to choose which child to carry downstairs. Their father was right behind me...neither child would be neglected...but all I could think was, "How do I choose?" Ultimately I didn't have to. Both were carried to safety. Our house didn't blow away. But even in that moment I could not imagine one of my children feeling like I had picked the other and risked him.

I feel for Rebekah. I don't know what all was going on. I also have to say...I dislike her choices. And I hope that I never find myself in a position where I am able...or favorites.


noteverstill said...

That is an uncomfortable story for soeone we're supposed to regard as a heroine, isn't it. I always just thought of it at she acting in accordance with the mores of her time. A generation later, we know Joseph was a favored son; a generation earlier, we know Abraham was kinder to sara's son than to his concubine's (Hagar? I don't have a bible in front of me). I always thought it was metaphor for how we wrestle with anything internally: literally inside her even before their birth we know that these opposing personalities wrestled, one grabbing the other's heel. I always felt badly for Rebecca: in her circumstances, was she powerless to have any other choice?

This Heavenly Life said...

So good, Jill! I think about this a lot, too. And I've always had a bit of a stumble around Rebecca and her clear favoritism. Yes, that favoritism was probably vital to the story of Judaism and Christianity, but...I don't know. Maybe Rebecca wasn't actually so blatant about it all, in real life. You know? Maybe the story was written down differently than it actually happened, in order to make a point about God choosing the lesser, the younger, for his purpose. Again, I don't know :) But I DO love this post :)

Jill said...

Girls, thanks for your great comments. I hear the same struggle in all of us - the words on the page can only tell so much. That's what keeps me from being able to condemn Rebekah even when my heart doesn't like her actions. Great questions...was it really that blatent?...did she have any choice? much did the time and place in which she lived decide for her? Thanks for your reading and your responses.