Tag Archives: Family

One Thing Legacy

One Thing Legacy (2 Ki 1) Wayfarer

So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.
2 Kings 1:17 (NIV)

This past year, our daughter Madison got a tattoo on her arm. It’s a gorgeous tat of a floral bouquet. She put a lot of thought into it. Each type of flower in the bouquet represents the previous generations of family who have influenced and impacted her life journey. Each flower has a metaphorical meaning related to the individual member of the family that it represents. The flower she chose for me was Simbelmynë, or “Evermind,” a fictional flower in Lord of the Rings. For Wendy, she chose red Ivy which represents affection and friendship. It goes on with flowers representing parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and step-grandparents. All of them are honored in the bouquet for the contribution they made to her life, and the positive qualities each person exemplified for her in her life journey.

I thought about that as I contemplated the brief reign of Ahaziah, son of evil Ahab, the ancient king of the northern kingdom of Israel. His brief reign of one year reign (he spent one year as coregent with his father) is encapsulated in a single episode. He has a “one thing” legacy in the Great Story. Ahaziah is injured in a falling accident. He sends messengers to the pagan Philistine god Baal-Zebub in the city of Ekron to divine if he would recover. In this, Ahaziah has revealed himself to be the true offspring of his father and mother’s hardhearted devotion to pagan gods and their antagonism towards the God of Abraham, Moses, and David. The prophet Elijah sends Ahaziah word that he will die on his bed, and so he does, and that’s his legacy.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about legacy. I’ve observed that most people have little knowledge of their family legacy once they get past grandparents, or perhaps great-grandparents, who they may have known. Family is quickly forgotten, despite the fact that their lives and legacies contributed to the family system that impacted their descendants in numerous ways.

I consider Madison’s tattoo to be an index and roadmap for future generations to learn a bit about the individuals in the generations before her. I envision her in old age talking to grandchildren or great nephews and nieces and talking about each flower in the bouquet adorning her arm, which will prompt questions they will ask about those individuals, and stories she can share about each one, which will inform them of the legacy they have received from individuals they never knew. People who instilled faith, perseverance, and love into the family system.

And, of course, this brings to mind my own legacy and what will be remembered in the brief time I will be remembered before I and my life are completely forgotten on the earth. What will stand out and be remembered when I am remembered at family gatherings. What are the stories that will be shared? What will I have contributed? Will it be positive or negative? Faith or doubt? Courage or fear? Harmony or conflict? Love or hatred?

As I enter into this, another day kicking off another work week, I’m thinking that legacy has more to do with my daily thoughts, words, and actions than I want to admit.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Influence

Influence (CaD 1 Ki 15) Wayfarer

[Abijah] committed all the sins his father had done before him.
1 Kings 15:3 (NIV)

Wendy and I have the joy of having our children and grandchildren stay with us for a few weeks. Because they currently live on the other side of the ocean, it’s always special to have this time together. The house is a mess, there’s lots of noise, and there’s a lot of activity. I love it.

Our grandson, Milo, turned five this past Sunday. It’s fascinating to watch his young personality emerge and develop. He feels big feels, and he expresses those emotions on a grand scale. He expresses things I would never expect from someone his age. I know many adults who are not as in tune with their feelings, nor can they express them the way five-year-old Milo does. I love watching him grow up and watching his parents deftly navigate the turbulent emotional waters. Their calm and peaceful influence is impressive to observe.

With today’s chapter, the author of Kings enters the back-and-forth reigns of the various kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The author uses a repeated pattern. First, he identifies when the King ascended the throne in relation to who was on the throne in the other kingdom. Second, he establishes whether the King did good or evil in the eyes of the Lord based on his loyalty to God or pursuit of pagan religion and worship. There may be a mention of an important event during his reign (e.g. war or battle), or even a random trivial fact (e.g. King Asa’s feet were diseased in old age).

When I read this morning that Abijah, son of Jereboam, “committed all the sins his father had done before him,” I couldn’t help but conclude that he was “a chip off the old block.” Parents influence children. Children often do exactly what their parents model. Abijah did what his father did.

My thoughts in the quiet this morning are actually pretty simple. At this point on life’s road, parenting is more of an advisory position. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t have influence. Yesterday morning, Milo quietly opened the door to my office as I was reading and preparing to write my post. I beckoned for him to come and sit on my lap. Curious, he began asking me about the book I was reading and what I was doing in my office. I told him about my time in the quiet each morning reading, writing, and having conversations with God. He didn’t seem particularly interested in the details, which was fine. He was keenly interested to be on grandpa’s lap and get my assurance that I would be chasing him later in the day in a game we call “running around in a circle.” I assured him we would, and we did – multiple times.

Along my life journey, I’ve come to the realization that the influence I have on my children (and grandchildren) is in the person they see me being every day, over time along with the person I am with them in the relationship. They will have to make their own life choices. I will, however, give them a template to follow (or not follow) with my habits, my behaviors, my words, and my interactions with them.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Generations

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.
1 Kings 12:8 (NIV)

When I was a young man, I had all the confidence in the world. I had an intense belief that I could do anything to which I set my mind. I didn’t even question it. The only question was what it was to which I would set my mind and heart. I was three years old when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon, and for my generation, I believe there was a certain anticipation and belief that we could shoot for the stars. Our grandparents were “the greatest generation” who grew up during the Great Depression and gave their lives to save the world from tyrannical evil in World War II. Our parents’ generation put men on the moon. There was no limit to what our generation could accomplish.

In those early years, I don’t remember having much anger or animosity toward the previous generations other than what I perceived to be their blind obedience to institutions and institutional traditions. I was an obedient and good kid for the most post, but I bucked traditions that I found silly and void of any tangible purpose.

By way of contrast, our daughters’ childhood and youth were marked by September 11, 2001, and a post-9/11 world. Taylor was 11, and Madison was not quite 10. Now in their 30s, I look at their generation and find them to have a very different mindset. My personal observation has been that they’ve largely rejected the faith and belief systems of previous generations outright. Despite being arguably the most affluent and privileged generation in the history of humanity, theirs is a pessimistic and cynical worldview of a world made perpetually evil by the previous generations and their belief systems, an assuredly apocalyptic future from any number of doomsday scenarios from climate change to capitalism, and their conviction that only they can change the world and save it for subsequent generations.

Generations are fascinating.

In today’s chapter, Solomon’s son Rehoboam takes over his father’s throne. I couldn’t help but think through the experience of the generations:

Generation #1: David
David has an incredibly difficult journey to the throne. Despite his early victory over Goliath and popular acclaim, David lives as a mercenary in the desert with a price on his head for well over a decade. He’s a middle-aged man by the time he ascends to the throne. He earned the kingdom through grit, faith, perseverance, and conquest.

Generation #2: Solomon
David’s marriage to Bathsheba and the subsequent birth of Solomon came relatively late in David’s life and reign. Solomon was born into the wealth and power of the royal family, but he was relatively young when he ascended the throne and inherited a vastly larger and wealthier nation that his father had spent a lifetime building. Solomon enjoyed the heck out of it, but his excess and extravagance came at a heavy expense to the everyday people of the nation.

Generation #3: Rehoboam
From what we can surmise, Rehoboam never knew a difficult day in his life. He great up, not only in the Royal palace like his father, but he also experienced the wealth, extravagance, and excess with which his father lived. Solomon may have known privilege, but Rehoboam knew only privilege and fortune on steroids. When he finally has his chance at the throne, he has no regard for his people or his nation. He and his entourage of similarly privileged and wealthy friends treat the throne as if it’s their golden ticket to continue their extravagant living while using their power to lord themselves over others.

In the quiet this morning, I ponder my place in the Great Story from a historical and generational perspective. On one hand, I feel humble in accepting the reality that generations are often unwitting products of the generations before them and the circumstances around them over which they have no control. On the other hand, I find myself desiring to not be fatalistic about the differences between generations but rather to help other generations with the wisdom of experience. Ultimately, you can’t control whether another generation will listen to or accept that wisdom.

The elders who tried to speak wisdom into Rehoboam learned that the hard way.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

(Un)Like Father, (Un)Like Son

(Un)Like Father, (Un)Like Son (CaD 2 Sam 18) Wayfarer

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18:33 (NIV)

A few years ago I ran into some old friends of the family whom I had not seen since I was a teenager. When the gentleman looked at me he exclaimed, “My goodness, there’s no mistaking who you are. You look just like your old man!” As I get older, the more comments I get about looking like my father.

“Chip off the ol’ block,” they say of children who become like their parents. As Wendy and I spent time with our young grandchildren this week, we couldn’t help but have the requisite conversations regarding who each of them resembles in the family.

It is interesting the ways we are similar and dissimilar from our parents. This morning I found it interesting to think about, not the similarities, but the contrast between David and his rebellious, patricidal son Absalom:

  • As a young man, David was the anointed king but refused to take the life of Saul or take the throne by force. He waited and suffered for years to let God’s plan unfold. Absalom schemed and plotted to take the throne and kingdom away from his father in a coup d’etat.
  • David was a warrior with blood on his hands, but he also stayed opportunities to kill his enemies, and he even ordered his generals to afford Absalom both respect and gentleness. Absalom, on the other hand, was more indiscriminate. He killed his own brother out of revenge and arguably would not have afforded his old man the same courtesy his father sought to afford him.
  • David made his share of mistakes, but he also acknowledged his failures when confronted with them. While not perfect, David’s self-awareness led to humility and he was constantly aware that even the king was subject to a higher authority. Throughout the story, Absalom’s actions appear to have been motivated by anger, pride, and hatred. His actions were a pursuit of vengeance and ultimately, the pursuit of personal gain.

I was struck this morning as I pictured David mourning for the son who had caused him and his kingdom so much injury. I imagined what Absalom would have done had he been successful at stealing the throne and confronting his father. I can’t picture Absalom being as gracious and forgiving.

As a parent I am fully aware of the ways our adult daughters have inherited my DNA, and how they have each been affected by my words and actions both positively and negatively. I believe David was aware of this, as well. David understood that the seed of Absalom’s rebellion took root in the wake of David’s own moral and relational failures. It did not absolve Absalom of his poor choices, but it afforded David the ability, much like the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, to be gracious in his attitude toward his son.

This morning in the quiet I find myself thinking about motivations, character, family, and choices. We don’t get to choose our family. We must all play the hand that we’re dealt. As I’ve progressed in my own life journey I’ve discovered that there is a fine line between acknowledging and understanding the ways our parents and family system affected us and using that knowledge as an excuse for our own poor choices. I think David and Absalom, father and son, are great examples of living on opposite sides of that line.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Great Stories, My Story

But Absalom said, “Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.” 2 Samuel 17:5 (NIV)

It is said that one of the aspects of great stories is their timelessness. When I studied theatre in college there were entire sections of study devoted to Greek tragedies like Antigone and Oedipus Rex and, of course, the works of William Shakespeare. It was the late 20th century and in many classes, I spent more time studying plays and stories that were hundreds and thousands of years old than contemporary works.

As I read ancient stories like the story of David we’re wading through now, I can’t help but hear echoes of other timeless stories and make connections between them. Power plays for the throne (Game of Thrones), tragic human failure (Anakin Skywalker), and the intrigue of family rivalries (Succession) are the stuff of which classic stories are made. Today as I was reading the chapter, I thought of The Godfather films and the saga of the Corleone family; A timeless classic in its own right. As they led their mafia family, Vito and Michael Corleone always tried to have a guy, loyal to the family, on the inside of a rival family or faction. Luca Brasi dies while trying to convince the Tataglias that he wants to betray Don Corleone. Michael sends his brother Fredo to Las Vegas which not only serves to get Fredo out of his sight but also plants his own brother inside of an operation he doesn’t trust.

A few chapters ago, amidst the chaos of Absalom’s coup, the last thing that King David did before fleeing the palace was to plant his man, Hushai, inside Absalom’s inner circle. It proved to be a cunning move. Absalom took the bait hook, line, and sinker. In today’s chapter, David’s scheme comes to fruition and Hushai sets the hook which will be the undoing of Absalom. Absalom was a cunning young man and had planned his moves against his brothers and father well. In the end, however, he underestimated all the wisdom and experience his father had gathered while running for his life in enemy territory for many years. In addition, Absalom’s self-seeking motivation was about anger, vengeance, hatred, and personal power. The repentant David may have been facing the tragic consequences of his own blind spots and failings, but at the core of his being his heart was still humble before God.

In the third act of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather epic, Michael Corleone’s son confronts his father about the “bad memories” he has of his family and childhood. “Every family has bad memories,” Michael replies. And, so they do. Another appeal of great stories is the connections we make to our own lives and experiences. We are all part of the human experience. Even in my own family, there are true tales of tragedy and intrigue. Times change, but people are people, and our common human flaws source similar tales in our own lives and families. We each play our part in the story. We are each a cog in our family’s system. The cool thing is that we get to choose our character and influence the story with our daily choices of words, relationships, and deeds.

How will I choose to influence my story, and my family’s story, today?

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m taking a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

The featured image on today’s post created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Blind Spots

Blind Spots (CaD 2 Sam 13) Wayfarer

When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.
2 Samuel 13:21 (NSRV)

I have been doing leadership development with the management team of one department of a client this week. It’s been both fascinating and a lot of fun as I spent time with each team member, learned their Enneagram Type, shadowed them as they went about their job, and observed them coaching their team members. Today, I get to sit with the team and review my observation and recommendations. They are great people and have a lot of potential but they also have a lot of challenges both individually and collectively.

David was a great warrior, a great general, and a great leader of men. Evidence leads me to believe that he was not, however, a great husband or father. As we’ve read David’s story he has slowly been amassing wives like the spoils of war and the result was many children. But, an army of children does not an army make. A family system and the complex relationships between birth order and gender can be difficult enough for a monogamous, nuclear family. I can’t imagine the exponential complexities that emerge when you have eight wives, ten concubines, and children with almost all of them.

As I read through these chapters I’ve noticed that I never read of David telling his children “no” nor do I read of him disciplining them for their behavior. David appears to have even had a reputation among his offspring for not refusing their requests. David’s daughter, Tamar, tells her half-brother Amnon that if he simply asks Dad she’s sure he’ll let them get married. When Amnon rapes Tamar instead and then turns her away we hear of David’s anger, but he doesn’t do anything about disciplining his beloved firstborn son. When Tamar’s full brother Absalom plots to kill their half-brother Amnon in revenge, Absalom goes to David and presses good ol’ dad until David relents and sends all the brothers on Absalom’s little fratricidal sheep-shearing retreat.

David has a blind spot. He can lead an army to endless victories but his record as leader of a family is a tragic string of failures and defeats.

I cannot point at David without three fingers pointing back at me. We all have our blind spots. The managers I’ve been mentoring this week have been learning that their Enneagram Type reveals their tremendous strengths, but also their core fears and weaknesses. If they are going to succeed as a team, they will have to embrace both within themselves and their team members. Our greatest strengths have their corollary weaknesses. We cannot escape this reality, but we can escape being enslaved to it. What we can do is be honest about our blind spots. We can choose to shine a light on them and invest time and attention in addressing them. We can surround ourselves with others who will graciously help us see them, work through them, and who will patiently love us as we do.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
.

The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

R.I.P. Tom Vanderwell

I’m sure that for individuals with names like “John Smith” or “Mary Miller” the idea of another person sharing your name is akin to the reality that another person shares the same zip code. However, when you grow up in America with the name “Tom Vander Well” you feel a certain sense of individuality. It is not a common name. It was easy for me, as a kid, to believe that I was the only one.

Then came the internet.

I first became aware of “the other Tom Vander Well” because we were both posting to the internet on professional blogs. He was a mortgage banker in Michigan. I was a QA and CSAT specialist in Iowa. People started to get us confused. I received emails meant for him, and he for me. The same happened with phone calls and snail mail. We eventually reached out to each other and struck up a dialogue, which led to us meeting for a cup of coffee back in 2011 while Wendy and I were visiting friends in Michigan. While we were sharing that cup o’ Joe a friend of his came into the coffee shop and stopped to chat. It was hilarious when he introduced us. His friend became very confused as Tom and I enjoyed the moment. I’ll enjoy that forever.

My great-grandfather came to America from the Netherlands in the late 1800s and “Americanized” our surname “van der Wel” as “Vander Well.” Tom’s Dutch ancestors settled in Michigan a few decades later and Americanized the same surname as “Vanderwell” without a space between the “Vander” and the “Well.” A genealogist in the Netherlands wrote to me out of the blue years ago and identified our common ancestor back in the 1700s. Tom and I really were distant cousins.

As we casually corresponded with one another, we discovered that we shared a lot in common. We were the same age. We were both followers of Jesus. We both graduated from small, Christian liberal arts colleges. We both shared a passion for our faith and our family in the midst of our vocations.

Several years ago, I learned that Tom was experiencing significant health problems. We had a couple of long phone conversations, and Tom continued to share his heart with me in online messages.

This past week I learned that my cousin and “name doppleganger” ended his earthly journey and crossed over to eternity. I’m ecstatic for him, knowing that he’s been freed from the illness, suffering, and constraints of his earthly body. At the same time, I’m saddened for his family whom he loved so deeply and who will acutely feel the loss of his presence moving forward.

Rest-in-peace Tom Vanderwell. I know, by faith, that you are better right now than you have ever been. I beg Tom’s family to accept my sincere condolences as I can only imagine the grief that they are experiencing. I look forward to connecting with him again in eternity.

For any of my family and friends who hear news of the death of Tom Vanderwell, this may be my only opportunity in this life to share Mark Twain’s sentinment that the “news of my death has been greatly exaggerated.”

I can hear Tom Vanderwell chuckling in heaven.

Tribal Instinct and Higher Law

Tribal Instincts and Higher Law (CaD Jud 20) Wayfarer

But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites.
Judges 20:13b (NIV)

My tribe.

I’m a member of a number of “tribes.” The tribe of my family. The tribe of my community. The tribe of my high school classmates with whom I grew up. The tribes of my favorite college and professional sports teams. There’s the tribe of those who hold similar worldviews. And, there’s my national tribe. There’s even my tribe of fellow Jesus followers.

I couldn’t help but ponder all of my tribal instincts as I read today’s chapter. Which is the continuation of the saga that began in yesterday’s chapter. Shocked by the story of the Levite whose concubine had been gang-raped until she died by some men of Gibeah in the tribe of Benjamin, the other eleven tribes muster their armies and march on Gibeah to demand justice (this is a tribal instinct). The tribe of Benjamin closes ranks and refuses to give them up (which are also classic tribal instincts) and civil war erupts (tribal instincts often lead to violence). Benjamin is ultimately defeated and their towns burned.

The author of Judges is wrapping up his book with this story, which will conclude in the following chapter. His stated purpose is to show how the lack of a king to provide strong authority and leadership leads to disastrous consequences. Yesterday’s horrific crime was an act of depraved lawlessness. Today’s chapter reveals the lack of national justice as tribal instincts rule over inter-tribal relationships. Benjamin refuses to allow the perpetrators from their tribe to be held accountable for their crime. The lawlessness and lack of justice lead to a breakdown in unity among the tribes and a bloody eleven-against-one tribal battle leaves the towns of Benjamin decimated. Everyone loses.

As I pondered these events in the quiet this morning, I once again thought about them on both the societal level and the personal level. Like yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about how the ancient Hebrew tribes were behaving like gangs behave, like feuding crime families behave, and like rival sports fan(-atics) behave. Despite all of the advancements we enjoy in our civilized society with the rule of law, our human “tribal instincts” remain very strong. When inflamed, reason quickly shuts down and our base instincts can quickly spin out of control to tragic ends that only perpetuate societal problems. I could think of many examples in current events when “tribal instincts” could not be controlled by the rule of law and the justice system.

At a personal level, I once again can’t walk away from today’s chapter without gratitude for the moral, relational, and behavioral guardrails that I have as a follower of Jesus, who not only expects me to abide by and submit to governing authorities but also asks me, and expects me, to go beyond mere rule-keeping and submit to the higher Law of Love, which leads to forgiving those who’ve wronged me, praying for and blessing those who persecute me, loving my enemies, going the extra mile, and being sacrificially generous.

I am called to suppress my tribal instincts, and submit to the higher Law of Love.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

And So, it Begins

And So, it Begins (CaD Jud 12) Wayfarer

Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, “You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh.”
Judges 12:4 (NIV)

Feuds between family members are as old as Cain and Abel, and they have always been part of the human condition. Both within my own family history and in families I know well, I can find multiple stories of feuding family members. Some of these feuds center on very specific issues (e.g. inheritance) while others seem to be of a mysterious origin that gets labeled simply as “bad blood” between feuding members.

Our place at the lake is in central Missouri, a border state between North and South during the U.S. Civil War. Missouri hosted 29 of the 384 principle battles in the war. The third most behind Virginia and Tennessee. My great-great-grandfather fought on the Union side in the Missouri Infantry. It’s been over a hundred and fifty years since the end of the war, but vestiges of the conflict remain to this day. You can find it in the recorded history of our land, which originally stated that no person of color or “mixed-blood” could ever own any of the lots in our development. On our way to the lake, we pass a giant flagpole that sits prominently by the state highway surrounded by a tall fence and razor wire. It flies the Confederate flag. Feuds run deep and can last for many generations.

I found that today’s chapter is best understood in context. In the books of Moses and Joshua, there were two-and-a-half tribes who wanted to settle lands on the east side of the Jordan River, rather than in the Promised Land on the west side of the river. The half-tribe of Manasseh was one of them, and these east-siders became known as “Gileadites.” Jephthah led his tribe to military victory against the Ammonites.

In today’s chapter, the military contingent of the tribe of Ephraim arrives to complain that they weren’t included in the Ammonite campaign. Remember that military campaigns during this ancient period were lucrative for the victors, as the soldiers were allowed to take their share of the plunder. Jephthah attempts a diplomatic solution to the situation, but circumstances degrade into fighting with the Ephraimites insulting the half-tribe of Manasseh as “renegades” from the other side of the Jordan River. Keep in mind that Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph, adopted by Jacob. They had every reason to be closely allied to one another as descendants of the favored son, Joseph. Instead, they fight and slaughter one another.

And so, it begins. This is the first hint of trouble between the Hebrew tribes since the settlement of the Promised Land, but it will certainly not be the last. Eventually, ten of the twelve tribes will form their own nation (Israel) and fight the other two (Judah) in their own version of North against South.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about feuds and families. I can’t help but be reminded that Jesus predicted that He would be the lightning rod that divided families as individuals leave family behind to follow Jesus. This reality, however, does not excuse feuding behavior. As the follower of Jesus, I am called to do all in my power to live at peace, to love, to bless, and to forgive even with feuding antagonists. In some cases, I’ve come to the conclusion that the loving thing to do is to place time and distance between me and thee.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Land of Entitlement

Land of Entitlement (CaD Jos 17) Wayfarer

But Joshua said to the tribes of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—“You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours.”
Joshua 17:17-18 (NIV)

The land of Iowa that has always been my home in this life journey is among the most abundant farmland in the world. Even though I grew up in Iowa’s largest city and there were no farmers in my immediate family, farming is a part of life when you grow up here. Saturday mornings were all about watching cartoons as a kid, but I had to endure the U.S. Farm Report before the cartoons started.

As an adult, I’ve been friends with many people who did grow up on farms and in multi-generation farm families. Listening to their stories, I began to appreciate some of the larger issues that farm families have to deal with. Perhaps the largest issue for any farm family is the land.

Along my life journey, I have heard so many stories of families torn apart by disputes over the family farm and land. I’ve heard more than one person tell me that their family dutifully went to church every Sunday, but the land of the family farm was the idol, the god, that the entire family system worshipped. I’ve watched grown men weep as they talk about the relational carnage and emotional scars they carry because of the way the inheritance of the family farm was handled. Others have told me about close relatives who have harbored lingering hatred towards them over family land disputes.

The Teacher of Ecclesiastes wisely said that there’s nothing new under the sun. So, I shouldn’t be surprised that as the Promised Land is divided among the twelve Hebrew tribes that there would have been conflicts that arose over the division of the land. In today’s chapter, the tribes of Joseph grumble and complain that they haven’t been given enough land.

As I sat and pondered their complaint in the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder at the brashness of the complaint. Among the twelve tribes of Israel, Joseph had two of them (his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob’s grandsons, whom he adopted as sons). In essence, the two tribes of Joseph already had twice the inheritance as any of Jacob’s other sons. What’s more, they were given preferential treatment. After Judah, they were the first to receive their allotment. Other tribes have yet to be allotted any land yet, and the Joseph tribes are already complaining that they don’t have enough. Beyond that, they complained that the land allotted to them had fortified Canaanite cities that had chariots that were technologically advanced in their day and they didn’t want to have to deal with driving them out. So, I translate their request as “give us more land that will be easier for us to settle.”

Joseph was the favorite. It leads me to wonder if the family pattern was that his descendants retained the attitude and sense of entitlement that often accompanies favored children.

This makes Joshua’s reply to Joseph’s tribes even more fascinating. In essence, he tells them that they’re stuck with the land allotted, and they can have all the land they want beyond their allotment, but they have to conquer it and claim it for themselves.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself grateful that I and my family have never had to deal with internal inheritance and land disputes. At the same time, I have to confess that as I point my finger at Joseph’s tribes this morning there are three of my fingers pointing back at me. There are many ways that selfishness and entitlement reveal themselves in life. There are many other things in life that become just as much of an idol as farmland.

Jesus taught a lot about being content with one’s circumstances on this Earth. It’s a subject I rarely hear talked about or discussed in a culture of entitlement and an economy fueled by discontentment. But, as a disciple of Jesus, I can’t ignore the lesson.

And so, I enter another day of labor choosing on this day to be grateful, diligent, and content.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.