Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Genesis story of Jacob meeting Esau after his (Jacob's) return to claim his heritage is one that I find quite remarkable. Nowhere in the Bible in magnanimity pictured more fully than in the person of Esau. Usually we run with the main headline of the story of Jacob being scared out of his wits at the prospect of facing his brother, then taking his rightful place in Israel's pantheon of founders. But I find Esau quite remarkable. Either he is not the person we have been led to believe, or he has undergone quite a transformation. Here is a poem I wrote back in 1981 celebrating that meeting in the context of my own existential discoveries. It is followed by a meditation written in 1993 exploring the blessings that Esau might confer.
When Esau met Jacob,
He embraced him and wept.
Two brothers who had been
strangers from birth
Were united in tears.
You were once a stranger to me -
Little known and scarcely understood.
But our tears have brought us together,
And in that I embrace you as my brother.
When I Met Esau
Since this was my second meeting with Esau, I knew what to expect. He gave me a welcoming embrace and put me at ease. His smile was warm, his eyes soft and inviting. The sweet earthy aroma of hay and cattle feed lingered about him as we sat at his kitchen table. I found myself telling him all that had happened in the ten years since we had first met. His interest in me was a remarkable touch of grace.
When we met ten years ago, Esau was not the man I had been told about. I had been told that he was brutish, unsophisticated, and not very bright. Instead, I found a man who was supremely magnanimous, disarmingly gracious. I freely told him my life story and found complete acceptance and affirmation in his presence.
Today we talked as old friends. As he talked, I noticed for a brief moment the brightness of his eyes fade, reminding me of his own loss. In years past, he had suffered the disregard of his mother, the betrayal of his brother, and the loss of support from his father whom he had loved. Somehow, in his loss of fortune, Esau had gained a depth of soul. He saw so clearly what was essential in life.
I found myself the recipient of his healing acceptance and encouragement. I found Esau to be a lover of life who had found blessing and had gained the power to bless. After spending time with him, I, like the patriarch Jacob, believe that if God could be seen, he would look like Esau.
How did Esau achieve that power to bless? What was the source of his magnanimity? Next I'll be posting a story about his father, Isaac, that may give us a clue.