Aspirations are not bad, but if hidden motives are present, relationships almost always suffer. I, as most have, truly aspired to bring value through my life. First, to the children in my classrooms, then to the superintendents I have served, and finally, the churches and communities with which I have engaged.

On the other hand, I now see the energy losses in that process where relationships were mishandled, energy that might have been better spent with my own family given the busyness of my life.

Actually, the effort put forth was not fully lost, for God has been faithful in using my life. Perhaps its inefficiency that I am discussing here? These are the ruminations that always follow my early morning scripture reads.

This morning I happened to be reading through the passages built around Jacob and his children. I should say, Jacob and his wives, and their servants. The children and the challenges they would bring were simply the products of their aspiration management!

Children and might I add grandchildren, are glorious gifts, but oftentimes how those children come about makes for good stories. Such was the case with all of Jacob’s offspring.

If you recall, after Jacob’s mom, Rebekah, had conspired against her aging husband, Isaac, securing a blessing for her favorite son, she had sent him off to his Uncle Laban to find an “appropriate” wife, Rachael.

Rebekah’s best intention was meant as a deliberate act of love, though made in the context of a fear that if Jacob remained, he could be killed by the twice spurned Esau. Fear based “acts of love” never turn out well.

From a providential stand point, less the parental trickery, it may have been God’s way of securing a young man’s life, who had he remained with his parents, might have totally lost his way.

God has a plan for each life, which despite the sins and faulty aspirations that surround our decisions, He is able to secure. I personally marvel at how that has worked in my life. Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.

This morning as I read through the naming of Jacob’s offspring, I was struck by the amount of family therapy material hidden within the craziness of his love life!

The first son was birthed out of jealousy by Leah, the result of the bait and switch matchmaking by Jacob’s father-in-law. She names her child Reuben which means, “see a son,” as if to say to Jacob, “I am the better of your two wives.”

Then Simeon was born, which means “one (God) who hears”. That was Leah’s second in your face act toward a still barren Rachael, though Leah, as we often do, gives honor to God in the midst of her cruel actions toward her sister.

Ironically, this whole story will become a long term testimony of how God is always at work, far above all our religious shenanigans. That word, shenanigans so appropriately describes what we so often do in the name of God!

Levi is the third, his name means “attached”, for that is what by now Leah had thought would be the case with the husband whose love she so desperately desired. Then Judah, the fourth, which she names “praise”; for she and God, in her mind, have got this!

Rachael by now has decided that she has drawn the short straw from God, and thus cuts a deal with Jacob to sleep with her servant girl. Bildah was the hand maiden which Rebekah’s Dad had thrown in to sweeten Laban’s ill intended wedding deal for Leah. We apparently didn’t discuss things to this level when I was in Sunday School?

Bildah, then bears a son for Rachael, whom Rachael, not his biological mom, names Dan, meaning “vindicated”! Don’t you love how scripture captures our mess, while history demonstrates God ability to walk us through it!

The second son born to Bildah was named Naphtali, “my struggle”…Ya think!

Now Leah, after several attempts at pregnancy, then brings her maidservant to the “table”. Zilpah births Gad, “good fortune” and then Asher, which literally means, “they will be happy for me.” We are talking major identity crisis here!

Leah, bless her heart, is apparently a rather strong willed girl and catches her second wind. She appropriately names her fifth child Issachar, “reward”. Way to hang in there, Leah! Her second in this round she calls Zebulon, “honor”, as in “to God”.

Her third, Dinah, a female that is spoken little of until she is raped later in life. Again, our mess, His grace!

Finally Rachael becomes pregnant with Joseph, the dreamer, who will eventually walk all these kids out of their struggles!

My tongue-in-cheek humor in all this is meant to sustain the reader until we arrive at the real nugget of truth. This story could not have been better written to demonstrate two things. First, we humans have choices and our choices have consequences. Secondly, God is sovereign and full of grace in the way he walks us out of all those consequences.

By the way, there was another son born to Jacob, the twelfth if you are counting. His name was Benjamin which means “son on my right hand”. Perhaps this was an early wink from God, a clue as to where this whole thing with sinful humanity was headed, the Christ!

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