Refuse to Play
Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” Genesis 30:8
My wife and I have come a long way since the disaster of my addiction, but that doesn’t mean we do marriage perfectly. We still have our moments when we bicker over stupid stuff, and once we both start in, the conflict simply feeds on itself. We may not even remember what the original scuffle was about, but we both believe we’re right, we both believe we’ve been wronged, and we both want vindication . . . along with the last word. It’s a death spiral into a black hole which can be terribly difficult to escape. Even if one of us is proven right and “wins”, no one actually wins because our relationship suffers from the conflict. The only way to win is for one of us to stop, apologize, and surrender the need to be right. But in the heat of the conflict, humility is hard to find. It’s the principle of the matter! I’m right and you must acknowledge it!
Today’s passage tells the story of one such conflict, continuing the sad saga of sisters, Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob. Rachel was beautiful and loved by Jacob while Leah was neither pretty, nor loved. Leah though, provided Jacob with three sons, which drove Rachel mad with envy. So, Rachel gave her servant to Jacob for a third wife, and he got her pregnant – twice. During this time, Leah didn’t produce any more children and so, Rachel proclaimed victory in the war against her sister. Then however, Leah took her servant and gave her to Jacob (wife number four) producing yet another son, once again gaining the upper hand. And so, the feud continued, with both sisters earning themselves a whole lot of misery. The only way either of them could have truly won, would have been to surrender – choosing not to participate in the war. But neither could embrace humility and neither could stand the thought of the other one getting ahead. So, the ugly conflict simply perpetuated itself.
Most of us have found ourselves in this position with those closest to us. We may not want to fight, but we can’t stand to surrender, relent, or say we’re sorry. But I’m not wrong! I shouldn’t be the one to apologize! We can live and die on principle. We can fight for our need to be right. We might even win. Even in winning though, we lose because we’ve perpetuated the conflict which has now damaged the relationship. We’ve won the skirmish but the injury we’ve caused ourselves will never be worth it. Sometimes the only way to win is to embrace humility and refuse to play.