When we enter relationships with the illusion that people are normal, we resist the truth that they are not. We enter an endless attempt to fix them, control them, or pretend that they are what they’re not.
One of the great marks of maturity is to accept the fact that everybody comes “as is.” Of course, the most painful part of this is realizing that I am in the “as-is” department as well. Throughout history human beings have resisted owning up to that little tag. We try to separate the world into normal, healthy people (like us) and difficult people.
Sometime ago the title of a magazine article caught my eye: “Totally Normal Women Who Stalk Their Ex-Boyfriends.” The phrase that struck me was “totally normal women.” What would one of these look like (or a totally normal man, for that matter)? And if the obsessive stalking of a past lover is not just normal but totally normal, how far would you have to go to be a little strange?
We all want to look normal, to think of ourselves as normal, but the writers of Scripture insist that no one is “totally normal”—at least not as God defines normal. “All we like sheep have gone astray,” they tell us. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
This explains a very important aspect of the opening pages of Scripture. Have you ever noticed how many messed-up families there are in Genesis?
Here’s a quick summary:
Cain is jealous of Abel and kills him.
Lamech introduces polygamy to the world.
Noah—the most righteous man of his generation—gets drunk and curses his own grandson.
Lot, when his home is surrounded by residents of Sodom who want to violate his visitors, offers instead that they can have sex with his daughters.
Abraham plays favorites between his sons Isaac and Ishmael; they’re estranged.
Isaac plays favorites between his sons Jacob and Esau; they’re bitter enemies for twenty years. Jacob plays favorites between Joseph and his other eleven sons; the brothers want to kill Joseph and end up selling him into slavery.
Their marriages are disasters.
These people need a therapist.
These are not the Waltons. They need Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Spock, Dr. Seuss—they need somebody. (Feel any better about your family?)
Why does the writer of Genesis include all this stuff?
There’s a very important reason. The writer of Scripture is trying to establish a deep theological truth: Everybody’s weird. Every one of us—all we like sheep—have habits we can’t control, past deeds we can’t undo, flaws we can’t correct. This is the cast of characters God has to work with.
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