One thing that I love about Genesis, and the Bible in general, is that there is no shortage of dysfunctional people living in dysfunctional families. I can imagine that things got a little stuffy on Noah's ark when all your extended family is shoved together into a boat for 40 long days. A little bit of family counseling also might have helped clear the air a bit before Sarah sent her servant and her husband's son out to the desert to die. But the Bible is filled with flawed people being used by a perfect God.
This morning, I was looking at the relationship between Jacob and his father-and-law, Laban. Now, Laban was a bit of a scoundrel. Jacob worked for him for 7 years to marry his daughter Rachel, and he tricked Jacob on his wedding night and gave him his other daughter Leah instead. Even after the dust settled, and Jacob agreed to work another 7 years for the Rachel, I can only imagine the awkwardness at family events never ceased. Perhaps you can relate too?
The hatchet is never buried between Laban and Jacob, and Laban continues his passive aggressive behavior towards his son-in-law. Laban changed Jacob's wages (10x according to Jacob's account in Gen. 31:7), started treating him differently, and his attitude towards Jacob even ran off and affected how Laban’s sons treated him. Finally, Jacob had enough so he went to his wives declared they were taking off and leaving (31:17).
Even though Laban hadn't proven to be the most honest and trustworthy person, he did love his daughters and grandchildren so he decided to follow after Jacob- perhaps even to fight him and force him to return. God supernaturally intervened the night before the two adversaries met in a dream to prevent Laban from kicking the hornet's nest (Gen. 31:24), and then we witness what I'll call the Bible's first family counselling session.
There are a few great lessons to learn from what all went down at the close of the 31st chapter.
First, both parties air their grievances against one another. Both men express why they're doing what they've done. Laban accuses Jacob of stealing one of the family's gods and Joseph says that he didn't and if anyone from his house did, they should be killed. In the open air of expression, resolutions can begin to be formed.
Next, Jacob's tents and belonging are searched to see if he's lying. But Rachel is sitting on the stolen god and Jacob is unaware. Once that family issue is seemingly resolved, the counseling session shifts back to the pain Jacob is carrying.
"I've been with you for 20 years now, and have never wronged you." (I'm paraphrasing here) Jacob explained.
Between Jacob's words and actions, Laban seems to develop some acceptance, and explains that "the women are my daughters and the children are my grandchildren," and he loves them though they don't see eye to eye.
Though the wrongs weren't magically made right, the two decide to look forward for the sake of their family and they make a covenant with a stone and a heap of rocks. Every member of the family participates in the construction of this monument- and the best part is, Laban calls it one name and Jacob calls it a different name.
They couldn't even stand to agree enough to call it the same thing!
But this covenant represented two things: it settled Laban's fear of Jacob mistreating his daughters and it created a boundary between the two households. Jacob and his family could grow and prosper the way they needed to, and Laban could have the relationships restored with the members of his family that he loved.
To me, this first family counseling session offers some great lessons.
A) Air your grievances instead of letting it fester for 20 years.
B) Listen and respond to the grievances.
C) Respect family member’s different relationships with one another. We all don't have to feel the same way about one another, but we are supposed to love (Jhn. 13:34).
D) Honor boundary lines for they're a holy thing.
What else do you think this chapter is saying about family relationships?
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is a writer & tired homeschooling mom of five.