Giving love or withholding love…

“Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” Genesis 25:28

I never read this verse without thinking, “Whew!  Not good.” It “appears” that Isaac principally loved Esau for his hunting skills.  As the story rolls along there is plenty of conflict and what looks like dad and mom playing favorites.  There is lying and scheming, and well, oh boy.  It’s enough to make even a casual ready shake his head.

Parents should take great joy in the accomplishment of their children.  I’m all for that.  That’s normal and builds the self-confidence in a child that will take her through the ups and downs in life.  But if a parents’ love is contingent upon what a child does, that child might grow up with an unhealthy, unstable emotional foundation, always looking over her shoulder and thinking, “What would my mom think?”  “What would my dad think?”  That’s because she feels her approval is dependent upon her performance.  She does her best, all the while knowing that doing her best never is good enough.

If our love for our children is based on what they do, how will they grow up to understand God’s love, which is freely poured out for us in Jesus, and has nothing to do with performance?  God’s love and mercy is free, lavish and beyond merit.  As the old hymn says, “Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus — vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!”

Years ago when I was a campus pastor at the University of Illinois, there was a young pre-med student from India who attended our fellowship for a while.  He told me his parents both desperately wanted him to become a physician.  He wanted to become an engineer.  And yet, he repeatedly said that he had no choice but to comply with his parents’ wishes.  They were paying the freight.  He felt he had no other choice but to do what they wanted. 

What I remember most is that this young guy was one of the most uptight people I had ever met.  The poor fellow was wound tighter than a drum.  Over the course of the year I knew him, he drifted in and out of our group, and finally left it altogether.  I lost track of him after that.  Reading the Jacob/Esau story from Genesis and thinking back on that young man makes me think about the nature of our love for our children and whether it is similar or dissimilar to our heavenly Father’s love for us.  

“Father, make our love for our children, and for ALL of your children, more like your love — unconditional and full of grace.  May we never give love as a prize or withhold love as a punishment.”

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