Monday, March 17, 2014

If you knew you were dying...

If you knew you were dying, what would you choose to say to your loved ones? How would you use this precious time? Where would your focus be? Would you apologize for things done or left undone? Would you rehearse the reading of your last will and testament? Would you try to justify your actions or lack thereof? Would you attempt to make up for lost time and opportunities?

What would you say?

In Genesis 49 we read about what one father chose to say to his loved ones as he lay dying. Jacob could have concentrated on his own life - his tragedies and triumphs. There was much he could have said by way of an apology. But instead of turning inward to find what may very well have been his final words spoken between labored breaths, Jacob looked beyond his limited self so that he might speak the words of the only one from whom all blessings flow - the only one whose words do not return to him empty or void - the only one whose words will never pass away.

And as he did, he spoke words that proved to be so accurate that some Western scholars believe these words were not Jacob's words, but that they were added at a later time by an editor. But for cultures where the community is still valued and where the aged are still respected and revered, these prophetic utterances of both blessing and curse do not present a problem.

To be sure, Jacob's determination to speak prophetically caused him to utter words a loving, doting father would probably not have thought of himself, but, I believe, therein lies the lesson for those who read this passage so many centuries later.

We may speak many words (or in this day and age, type of text) either good or bad, but there is only one whose words will always be consistently effectual. The decision for us, as we read Jacob's dying words to his loved ones, is simply this. Whether living or dying, when we choose to speak into the lives of our loved ones or even those who are not our loved ones, will we look within ourselves to speak from the shallowness of our own finite wisdom, or will we pause to look beyond ourselves to find words of eternal value so that the words we speak may be eternally appropriate to the one receiving them?

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