Chapter-a-Day Numbers 2

vlag van de provincie Zuid Holland
Image by Gerard Stolk après Pentecôte via Flickr

The People of Israel did everything the way God commanded Moses: They camped under their respective flags; they marched by tribe with their ancestral familiesNumbers 2:34 (MSG)

My great-grandfather came to the United States around 1885. He was a young man and he travelled alone. This meant that my “tribe” got somewhat of a fresh start when he came to the U.S. From what I’ve been able to gather over the years, there was limited correspondence between my great-grandfather and his family remaining back in the Netherlands. My grandfather even visited his cousins in the Netherlands at one point, but then the link was then lost for a couple of generations. With the help of the internet, I found my cousin, John, about a decade ago and “tribal communication” across the Atlantic was restored.

I’ve heard it said “you can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with your family.” I’ve found it to be a true statement. Even if you do what my grandfather did to change the spelling of your name and move by yourself to a far away land, you still can’t escape your DNA. We are products of our family of origin. We can’t run away from that. In fact, looking back on the four generations of my family that have been born and raised in the United States, it seems as if the individualism which led my great-grandfather to strike out on his own and seperate from the tribe has perpetuated itself. There’s never been a family reunion. The extended members of our family rarely communicate. These are things that make me wonder.

I read today’s chapter and I picture the tribes of Jacob all camping under their respective tribal flags. Each group had to have behavioral and tribal characteristics as unique as the flags the flew above their camps. It’s genetic. It’s human. It’s the way things work.

The better I understand my tribe, the better I understand myself. The better I understand myself, the more I clearly I perceive character qualities in me which I need God’s help to change, and character qualities which I need God’s help to strengthen.

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