Not Everyone is an Abraham

After dealing with the death of Abraham and a short view of the descendants of Ishmael, one would expect that we would then turn to the life of Isaac and begin to follow his life. While Genesis 25:19-26 starts by saying “This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac,” it becomes clear rather quickly that the focus will not be on Isaac, but rather on his family line. Isaac’s sons, particularly Jacob, becomes the focus of the story.

Recently this has intrigued me. Isaac was the promised one. So much of Abraham’s story was spent in great tension. Would the promised son be born to Abraham and Sarah? Yes, he would be. Yet, the promised son has very little story of his own. His life seems rather overshadowed by his father’s life and the life of his sons. Even the chosen son of the promise does not seem to have the same kind of significant narrative of Abraham.

What we are told here is that like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah are facing barrenness as well. However, unlike the case with Abraham and Sarah, the barrenness is resolved simply by Isaac praying to God and with God answering the prayer. It is all put so simply. God is still relied on for life, but everything is resolved in a much neater fashion than with Abraham.

After this though the story moves away from Isaac and begins to focus on the twins that are now wrestling around within Rebekah. Already Isaac is moved from the center. It is even Rebekah who inquires of the Lord here. The rest of the chapter then focuses on the sons of Isaac, which I’ll look into more next week. While Isaac does take center stage again in the next chapter, it is really the only story that is really his.

It just seems so anticlimactic to me. We have all this anticipation for Isaac, but hear very little of his life directly. While still a bearer of the promise of God, he is not a trailblazer like Abraham, and doesn’t run into a life of conflict like either Jacob or Joseph after him. His life appears successful as we’ll see in Genesis 36, but rather subdued in comparison.

This strikes me so much, because I’ve heard so many people who want to be like Abraham, Moses, or some other major Biblical figure. Not only do they want to be them, some also think that everyone should be. While I think there is truth to that, as we are all called to be like Christ, the focus often seems a bit different.

Maybe I’m completely off here, but when I hear talk about being like Christ it seems more focused on our character and our ability to love others. When I hear people talk about being like Abraham or Moses, it seems that the focus is on accomplishment. Not to say that Abraham, Moses, or other significant figures didn’t have character, but what we focus on is the accomplishment. We invoke Moses because we want authority over a group of people like Moses did, often forgetting how much of a struggle it was for Moses). We invoke Abraham because we feel like we are setting sail in uncharted waters and want God’s promise to guide us, again ignoring that Abraham had doubts and wrestled with the implications of what God presented.

There can be times where we feel that our lives have some commonality with these figures, and that is okay. The thing is not everyone is going to be an Abraham, a Moses, or a Paul. I’m also pretty sure that’s okay too. Are lives that are somewhat uneventful somehow less appealing to God? I don’t think that’s the case. Isaac seems to live a rather uneventful life in comparison to some of the other figures in Genesis, yet Isaac appears to trust in God and God appears to bless him.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, we might be pressured into feeling like we need to live up to some expectation placed on us to be just like someone else. I guess I don’t feel like that’s the case. In fact I’ve grown suspicious of people who try to compare themselves too closely to figures from the Bible. It seems like a power play to connect yourself to a authority figure. That’s not to say that we won’t see reflections of these stories play out in our own lives, but that we shouldn’t be trying to convince others we’re just like them.

We’re allowed to be who we are. That’s not to say we don’t have sin or flaws that need taken care of. It’s also not an excuse to just do whatever we please. It is just that we will be placed in unique positions and have unique strengths and weaknesses. We don’t have to be like Moses, Abraham, or whoever else in those circumstances, it is about being ourselves faithfully following after Jesus.

This may lead us to do amazing things that will be remembered for years to come, or it could lead us to a quieter, but faithful life that isn’t remembered except by those closest to us. Both are valid expressions of the faith we have.

Success Is Such a Slippery Concept

Do you want to be successful? I imagine that most people, myself included, would answer that affirmatively. It seems like such a simple question, but I have been struggling with this simple question lately. The reason for this struggle is that upon reflection, I’ve found success to be a hard word to define.

What is success?

To me this is not as easy of a question to answer. Is success having lots of money? Is it having a career that is meaningful and fulfilling? Is success having a healthy well-adjusted family? What is this elusive success?

The reality is that I think that we all define success a little differently. Also, success is not as one-dimensional as we might like to make it. I often think our ideas of success involve a number of different accomplishments rolled into one term.

Let’s use myself as an example. If I were to truly say what I think success is. It would primarily involve having a job that I enjoyed and felt was meaningful (this could even be just having more impact with my writing); being highly involved with my family; and living out my beliefs as a Christian the best as I’m able. Now these are just what I would view as primary to my view of success, at least at this moment.

Success for another individual could be completely different. So it makes the whole question of success rather relative. Even with similar goals, say your idea of success was being wealthy, what may be the viewed as success could be different. Somebody may not feel successful until they’re making a six figure salary while other people may attain “success” at lower or even higher amounts.

I think the most trouble arises when we start to hope other people view us as successful. We start to use this nebulous idea of success to compare ourselves to others. This leads us to trend towards ideas of success that are easily measured. We compare salaries, number of kids, importance of ones job, and in doing so limit our definitions of success.

What I’m trying to say in all of this is that we need to be careful how we deal with a concept like success. Having dreams and goals are admirable. We all have things we want to strive for and an idea of the success we want to accomplish.

This is a good thing, but the idea of success is also a dangerous thing. We can limit success into one-dimensional categories and pursue one aspect at the expense of everything else. We can also chase after too many things at once and leave ourselves exhausted and discouraged. We can also turn success into a competition. Where we stop defining success by what we want and more on how we’re viewed by others or how we compare to other people around us.

I do still want to be successful, but if I’m honest many times I’m worried about how I appear more than working towards my own goals. I worry that my status as a stay-at-home dad will create a bad impression to those around me. I compare myself to other classmates and feel like my accomplishments to some of them just don’t match up. It is when I do this that I am the most discouraged. Yet, even where I am I can still be successful. It just depends on the success that I’m chasing after.