18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.”
One of the important themes raised by Rabbi Richard Address at last weekend’s Long and Winding Road event centred around Genesis 26:18, which recounts how Isaac re-dug the wells his father Abraham had built and which had now been stopped up by the Philistines following the death of Abraham. The text raises a powerful question which we in the Boomer generation do well to examine. Are we re-digging the wells that our parents dug?
What is Isaac trying to do?
Is he trying to establish his own identity by digging new wells where the old ones had been?
Or is he still trying to win his father’s approval? Remember that Isaac’s relationship with his father Abraham was a complicated one. You will recall that Abraham, in a blind and misguided attempt to demonstrate his faith in God, actually came close to sacrificing his son Isaac. Imagine the post-traumatic stress Isaac would have carried with him all his life as a result of his father’s gross misunderstanding of what God required of him.
While there are too many in our society that continue to suffer abuse, emotionally or physically, at the hands of troubled parents, it is also true that those of us who were blessed by reasonably good and loving parents also wrestle with questions not unlike those identified by Rabbi Address. The parent-child relationship never goes away. Think of Esau and Jacob and how Jacob deceived his father Isaac into giving him the blessing that by birth should have gone to Esau. Granted, he had assistance from his conniving and manipulative mother Rebekah, but the theft may also be seen as a desperate attempt on Jacob’s part to win his father’s approval.
I always remember reading where the famous and highly decorated British general Field Marshall Bernhard Montgomery cried on his deathbed, “Why did my mother never love me?”
It would seem that our family of origin has tremendous power over our lives, even long after we have left the nest. Address says we never really escape it.
So take some to ponder these questions. Are you still re-digging the wells that your parents dug? Or are you building new wells of opportunity, grace and love and fashioning your own identity?
I will be away on study leave the week of November 29th to December 6th inclusive, but I would love to hear your answers when I get back. Please Note: There will be no blog next week. I will see you again the week of December 6th!