Gifts, Bright and Shadowed
“Then Jacob called his sons, and said, ‘Gather around, that I may tell you
what will happen to you in days to come.
Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel your father.” – Genesis 49:1-3
It’s near the end for Jacob, so he gathers his sons to the paternal bosom to give them each a gift: he tells them what he predicts, or hopes, that each one of their futures will be. Some are bright and shiny; some are curses of shadow and emptiness. Every parent has done this same thing: held their baby or ten-year-old or high school grad or 30-something in their arms and told them of the future they long for for them. As often as not, the kids try to get out of the parent’s needy clutch as soon as possible, either because it’s too mushy and loving, or because it’s too cruel and damaging. But the parent holds tight.
And the kids usually do hear, the good messages and the bad. Sometimes they take them so deep that it seems the parent’s words actually become a part of who the child is.
What is it that your parents said to you, those times when they held you tight and looked hard at you? Was it blessing or curse? Promise or threat, cruel or kind? Was the gift bright or shadowed? And then what? Did you let the prediction become part of you, or did you, with time or therapy or pigheadedness or sheer will, refuse the gift and make your future without it?
Some of Jacob’s predictions came true, and some didn’t. By the grace of God, some of his boys became what he said; by the grace of God, some became something else. By the grace of God, which are you?
Holy One, I offer you the future my parents offered me; take it and do what you will. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.