17When Rachel was in her difficult labor, the midwife said to her, ‘Do not be afraid; for now you will have another son.’ 18As her soul was departing (for she died), she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. 21Israel journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. Genesis 35:17-20
Here is surely one of Scriptures’ most compelling and dramatic scenes. Jacob, the swindler, finally coming home, home to God and home to family. But it is on his journey homeward that the love of his life, Rachel, goes into labor. It is a difficult labor, and in her dying Rachel breathes out the name of their newborn. The child is to be called, “Ben-oni,” or “Son of my sorrow.” But on her death Jacob quickly renames their little son, “Ben-jamin,” or “Son of my right hand.” He will be his son of favor or good fortune.
Psychologists have a name for what Jacob did. They call it “reframing.” Theologians call it “faith.’ Whatever you call it, it is taking the same situation, the same set of circumstances and giving them a different meaning. It is looking at life through new lenses. A problem becomes an opportunity. A weakness is now a strength. And an impossibility becomes a possibility. Sinners are named righteous, trials become occasions for rejoicing , and those who mourn are called “blessed.”
Notice that even God practices “reframing” in today’s text. It is “Jacob” or “swindler” that sets up a pillar at Rachel’s grave (v. 20), but the Spirit says that it is “Israel” or “prince of God” who journeys onward (v. 21). In scripture, God is ever giving people new names, reframing their stories, turning losers into winners, transforming tragedies into triumphs!
Last night I thrilled to watch and listen to a local symphony and chorus perform Beethoven’s, immortal Ninth Symphony, or his “Ode to Joy.” I was so moved by the glorious triumph of the music and I turned to Rita to say, “Just think, Beethoven couldn’t hear a note of it!” Yes, Beethoven reframed his deafness and tragedy into a song of joy!
Look at your life, your tragedies, your losses, your sorrows. Look at them through another frame. Look at them through the frame of faith. Look at them through God’s eyes. What do you see?
Grace and peace,
WEEKLY CLASSES WITH TIM SMITH:
EVERY WEDNESDAY THROUGH THE SUMMER
AT THE FRANCISCAN RENEWAL CENTER
(GARCES ROOM OF PIPER HALL)
Wednesday Noon – 1:00 P.M.
Songs for Life’s Journey: The Psalms of Ascent
Wednesday Evening 7:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.
Profiles of Spiritual Maturity: The Letter of James