I’ve never really resonated with the Esau in Genesis. As a quick recap, he’s the firstborn of twins but ultimately gives up his birthright (very big deal) for a meal. He comes back from hunting, he’s hungry, and his brother Jacob says he’ll feed him if he gives up his birthright. Can’t you imagine it? The sibling rivalry that began in the womb continues as Jacob lets the aroma of food waft under his brother’s nose. Taunting at its finest, no? And Esau declares “What good is a birthright if I starve?”. So they swap.
With the benefit of the whole story I’ve always thought Esau silly. Really, I mean really, how could you throw the important away for a bowl of stew? How immature, Esau. But today, as I read this story, I was shocked to realize that I am exactly like Esau way more often than I care to admit. I trade what is good, what is valuable for the quick, easy “fix”. It’s a temporary gain; it sacrifices the important for the immediate.
- I want to take care of my body, but I trade muscle strength for time in bed.
- I want community, but I don’t want to work at it, to struggle for it, to be patient and trust that God will provide. So I consider switching churches.
- Gratitude is a priority to me. But I write the thank you cards and then never mail them.
- I long for intimacy with God, but my prayer life never seems to percolate to the top of my priority list–at least for any longer than five or ten minutes at a time. Instead I check Facebook for the quick high of “being with friends”. (No, the irony is not lost on me.)
- I want my life to be radical for God’s glory, to be willing to be counter-cultural, to be sacrificial in giving, to look beyond myself. And yet I am quickly overwhelmed by the need, and choose to turn away instead of wading in to see where I am called. I give, but on my terms. (More about this in another post.)
Some years ago, I read about the “tyranny of the urgent”. I’m sorry to say I can’t remember who penned it to give him/her credit. But that notion resonates with how I live much of the time. I think it did with Esau, too. The urgent need was hunger, so he fed it instead of looking at the big picture. I can focus on a miniscule part of something huge and get fully distracted by it.
My kids are learning about delayed gratification these days. If you eat the gum now, you can’t have dessert later. It’s a choice. Whaddya want to do? They often choose the immediate and then are sad they did later, when that chocolate chip cookie looks terribly good. But I’m glad we all have opportunities to practice looking at the present and then considering the future, and choosing what is best. May we see the big picture more often.