The most important message I picked up from today’s readings overall is when making a fresh start, leave everything behind.
My primary take-away from each of the passages was this:
- Genesis 35-36 – When making a fresh start, leave everything behind. Don’t hold onto the past. Pray for protection, and God will take care of your enemies.
- Matthew 18 – God’s logic and wisdom are the inverse of humankind’s.
- Psalms 18 – When I am set upon by my enemies I cry out to God, he strengthens me, and vanquishes those would do me harm.
- Proverbs 18 – “There are friends who point the way to ruin. Others are closer than a brother.” v. 24
I have a few relatives I’m close to. I have a good relationship with my mother, a few cousins, and a few aunts and uncles. But I’m not in touch with the rest of my large, extended family much anymore.
I grew up feeling like an alien on the wrong planet. I wasn’t like the rest of my relatives. I loved them. They loved me. But we were so different. I didn’t think like them, act like them, believe what they believed, or value what they valued. For one thing, I took all the lessons of my childhood straight to heart. Some would call that gullible but as a teacher I would call it being teachable. I believed every single thing that any adult in a position of authority over me told me was true. That’s how I came to have a relationship with God. I went to church, Sunday school, and I embraced those lessons (a little too much, in some cases–I lived in mortal fear of hellfire and brimstone for many years because of the kind of Christians I was raised with and by).
Then, when I realized that what I was taught (mostly the way it was taught to me) was wrong, I moved far, far away from the influence of my family. I wanted to find out what I thought about things; how I felt about things. Once I did that, I realized that I had nothing in common with my family anymore. Going “home” meant compromising, pretending, and being judged when I let the real me show.
I don’t go “home” very often anymore. I made a life for myself in Montana. I found kindred spirits out here in the west. They are my family, now.
That’s what Proverbs 18:24 is about, in part. Instead of finding kindred spirits, I could just as easily have been rebellious for the sake of being rebellious and tried to find new friends who were as different from my family as they could possibly be, simply to set myself apart and make a loud point to my family. I could have chosen “friends who point the way to ruin.” That’s what a lot of people do. That’s why so many teenagers seem to do things just to make their parents crazy. They’re not trying to make their parents crazy; they’re just trying to prove that they’re independent and can make their own decisions. At that level of maturity the only way they know how to do that is to do and be the opposite of what their parents would do and be (which makes their parents crazy). A lot of times they “grow out of it,” not because “it’s a phase,” but because they don’t know themselves well enough to know what they need to look for in those early stages. Like Pinocchio, inexperienced and gullible, many of them find “friends who point the way to ruin.” That’s how they start figuring that out. Usually, they eventually find their way.
But that’s not why I went west. That’s not why I looked for kindred spirits and made a new family for myself. I was looking for genuine relationships with real people who I could be a friend to, also. I was looking for a new family that might actually understand and appreciate me.
When I left the South and headed west, I left pretty much everything behind. I unintentionally made a sacrifice, cleansed myself in a manner of speaking, and started over.
Jacob and his family did the same thing, but not unintentionally. They had broken a vow, angered a whole tribe of people and made enemies of them, and were on the run. Jacob wanted to be sure that there was nothing between him and God when he went to pray over the matter, so his entourage buried all their possessions in the ground (divesting themselves of possessions), made a sacrifice, and continued on their journey to the unknown.
It is not always necessary to make such a clean and dramatic break with our past. But if you do find it necessary, make a new start, leave the past in the past, let the old pass away, make a proverbial sacrifice, and cry out to God for help. He always comes through.
That’s what I got out of it. What did you get out of the readings today?
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