The Blessings of the Messed Up
Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them near him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands. – Genesis 48:13-14 (NRSV)
Rivalry, lying, trickery, jockeying for parental affection: the families in the Bible make for the soapiest of operas.
Jacob, now renamed Israel, meets his grandsons. There’s been so much crossing and double-crossing in this family, so much bad blood, murder and enslavement and cruelty, multiple generations of inherited trauma. Plenty of sin within each lifetime, as well: no doubt when Joseph approached with his sons, Israel was remembering the cruel trick he once played on his own aged father. No doubt that’s why he had to try to play the player, to avoid getting played himself. I wouldn’t have thought he’d be in a very good position to act as a blesser, but he doesn’t even hesitate.
You’d think that so many generations of messed-upness, not to mention Israel’s own history of stealing others’ blessings, would render him powerless to bless. And yet, it works; read the rest of the story.
I guess blessings given by broken people work as well as any other. Blessings given by the fearful, too. And by the weird. And the sinful. And the guilty. And the stealers of others’ blessings. And the messed-up scions of the most screwed-up families in the world.
Turns out, blessings don’t depend on the character or history of the person giving them so much as they do on the God who fulfills them.
For the power that I—even I—have for blessing the world, thank you. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate 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.