The trouble is with me, for I am all too human
Rebekah, an expectant wife, experiences what scripture calls a struggle. As challenging as it is to believe to those new to the story, the twins in her womb are in battle with each other. This war in the womb is so bad she goes to the Lord and asks Him about it. In response, the Lord doesn’t remedy or relieve her condition. He simply elaborates on it (Genesis 25:19ff).
The story of the twins, Esau and Jacob, is laden with human contriving, jealously, power struggles and deceit. While I cannot imagine what Rebekah is physically going through during this pregnancy (and, okay moms, I can’t imagine what you are going through or went through during your pregnancies either!), I invite all of us, men and women, to consider the Old Testament lectionary text for this past Sunday, July 12th, because each of us experiences our own inner struggles at times.
The Apostle Paul is one who speaks to struggles. Engaging the words flesh and Spirit, Paul understands the gut-wrenching experiences we, like Rebekah, have within ourselves. In Galatians 5:17, he says, “For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
Rebekah must crave something—and I’m not speaking to food cravings during a pregnancy. Perhaps an unresolved grief or unsettled injustice continues to upset her. Isaac, her husband, must carry similar wounds because both parents choose favorite sons which must significantly fuel the fire burning between the two boys. For Isaac, Esau is the chosen one. For Rebekah, it’s Jacob. Genesis 37 speaks to what happens when Jacob, now a father himself of twelve sons, chooses Joseph, his favorite. As these unanswered longings surface and resurface, great pains have to be experienced in the pit of the stomach.
In fact, all of Genesis speaks to a mega theme of what is really happening here, human sin. In this foursome—mom, dad and the twins—the family nucleus is significantly flawed. Scripture doesn’t gloss over their shortcomings or imperfections. If anything, the holy text sets plainly before us their faults and flaws so that we, in turn, can see our own inner grumblings, pangs, and problems easily. Our own inner wars can be identified.
Let’s get back to Paul. We’ve all been in this place the apostle speaks about with the inner war, the pull we experience one way and then the other. We know what is right, yet still do what is wrong.
Paul speaks further to this in Romans 7:14-17. “So the trouble is not with the law, for [the law] is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”
Sin living within us is always going to bring us problems—big, perpetuating problems. Paul is right when he says that we do not understand ourselves, or we don’t take the time to understand ourselves.
A friend recently spoke to what is true here. It’s easier to be angry at something (or someone) then to grieve. No one in this story of the twins grieves. Instead, they continually jockey for what they think they want.
Let’s understand ourselves. Let’s look at our own sins. When we do this, yes, we will have more than stomach rumblings; we have really hopeless, spiraling pain.
Ultimately, this pain drives us to one of two places—a continuation of the war within, or not to just any cross, but to the one Jesus died on. That cross does not burden us. It sets us free.