From the Book of Genesis:
Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women such as these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Genesis 27:46 (NRSV) – February 14, 2014.)
I suppose at one time or another everyone has felt what Rebekah expresses to Isaac in this verse. “If X (or Y or Z) happens, I’ll just die. My life will not be worth living.”
Yesterday, a friend of mine died. She had been battling cancer and winning; she was doing chemotherapy. It was the chemo, not the cancer, that got her. She suffered a heart attack while undergoing treatment and could not be revived. She was a young woman, not that that matters.
On Monday morning, another friend of mine died. She, too, had cancer, but had chosen not to undertake chemotherapy. She was 83, and by the time her cancer was symptomatic and diagnosed it was advanced and metastasized. She had lived a full life, not that that matters, either.
In the reality of such lives lost, the petulant “I’ll just die; what good is my life?” from Rebekah is a bit hard to take. Of course, she isn’t just being petulant, she’s also being scheming and manipulative.
I don’t really like Rebekah. If Genesis were a novel or a series of short stories, I would be very critical of Rebekah as a literary character, and probably wouldn’t finish the book. But this is Holy Scripture, so I am required (by faith and by profession) to take her seriously and wrestle (as her son will) with meaning, the meaning of her portrayal.
And here is what I take away from that struggle . . . the honesty of Scripture in its portrayal of humanity. The patriarchs and matriarchs (of which she is one) are not portrayed as perfect super-people. They are flawed and fallible human beings. They make mistakes. They can be (and often are) petty, whining, manipulative. They can be (and often are) not very likeable.
And yet, it is with such as these that God works. It is with such as these that God covenants. It is such as these that God blesses and saves.
I do not think that my friends who passed away this week were petty or whining or manipulative. But they were human. They had their foibles and their flaws. My hope for them is founded on a God who covenants with, works with, blesses, and saves ordinary human beings . . . ordinary ornery irritating human beings like Rebekah. If God can work with, bless, and save her and her posterity, God can bless and save my friends — and I’m sure he has. May they and all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.