Monday, October 20, 2014

The Bible - and, Cain and Abel and - you!

And me, of course.  I have often been concerned about these two, the first sons of Adam and Eve as you may recall.

So, we come to Genesis, chapter 4, and we are introduced to Cain, the elder son.   Then, comes Abel. He became a keeper of the flock and Cain, a tiller of the ground.  Abel offers as a sacrifice one of the first born in his keep and Cain, from the fruit of the ground.  God accepts Abel's sacrifice and rejects the offering of Cain.  Cain gets angry and God cautions him, "...sin is crouching at your door".  We know the rest of that story, Cain murders his brother.  In the next chapter in his life, he moves to the land of Nod where he finds his wife, they have children and he builds a city.

End of story?  I really have a problem with this.  The Bible records that Adam and Eve had another son, Seth, to "replace " Abel. 

My resources, well known Bible scholars, make no further mention of the man, Cain, nor his lineage, nor his accomplishments, all of which prompts me to ask about Cain's wife - no mention of her in the Bible.  I have to wonder, where did she come from?  Who were her parents?  The "land of Nod" - I am confused, according to my exhaustive concordance of the Bible, there is only one mention and I have already noted it - the land, the place, the people, where Cain found a wife.

The reason I ask has to do with the fact that I am a Father, two sons, two daughters.  According to the teachers I have listened to over the years, these relationships are important, even the fact I had a wife and she came from a family as I did.  These matters ought to be of great importance to us.  According to the lessons I have learned from others and my own study of the Bible, families are important to God.  Pages have been written with nothing more that the lineage of families

Surely, Cain's wife was as important to God.  She married a murderer.  Did she know?  If she ever found about his past, did she stay with him?  What about their children?  Did they know?

And you ought to wonder why I am raising these questions.  Here is my answer.  I was the first born of my parents.  It was 1929, desperate times, but happy times for my father as he married a much younger woman and they talked about their daughter, which he certainly expected.  He divorced his first wife after they had two sons and I don't know if this had any effect on him as I know very little about him.  I do know he and my mother expected to have a daughter and they already had a name, Shirley - after the movie star, Shirley Temple.  That would have to wait.  She was born three years later and because of the circumstances of the times, I went to live with my mother's parents - except for a school year when I lived with cousins.  In the interim, my father died and that was the last I ever heard of him until after my mother died and I discovered letters he had written to others and pictures of me when I was little more than an infant.

Family should have been important to me.  My grand parents were wonderful and their children would become close friends, but I would leave the only family I would ever really know when I joined the military, shortly after my seventeenth birthday.

Don't get me wrong, I have lived a good life in spite of the anger that used to rise up in me when I saw my friends involvement with their parents.  Although I don't recall the incidents, I have proof of my feelings in a few of the pictures as our family gathered together, but I was nowhere to be found. As others were being asked to "smile", I simply stepped behind the group an no one seemed to notice.

I have spent most of my adult life counselling others, more often about their careers, and one of the most intriguing facts I have discovered is that the futures of most of the others were dictated by the family in which they were raised.  We have reams of literature on future possibilities, but far too many of those in need are haunted by their observations of their families and their limited prospects.

Speaking of the Christianity in which I was raised, we talk a lot about the "family" of God but usually we are talking about church members, unfortunately.  I have been a member of a number of churches as I have traveled around our nation and you might suspect, one of the first observations I have taken away is the limited numbers of "real" families I have noticed.  It has always made me wonder why we spend a lot of time considering lineages and a relatively limited time dealing with family dynamics. I do recall leaving one church as the Pastor continued to make fun of the antics of children in the congregation which, far too often - for me, seemed to ridicule parental efforts.

I trust you may recall the lessons we could have learned from the story of the so-called "prodigal" (a word that is not mentioned in the Bible) son.  He learned a very difficult lesson, one that we might want to believe is true, but it is more often nothing more than our imagination.  I have heard that lesson discussed more often that I care to recall.  It typically is referred to as the joy that is in our Father's heart when a person accepts His free gift of salvation.  That is a nice idea, but - as usual, there is another side of a story that has more reality than a fictional account.  Typically, we wind up blaming the son.

What about the father's sin, the one that destroys far more of us than youthful transgressions?  It is easy for me to see as I am guilty of that father's sin.  There are four children I sired who have had to spend many more hours of grief than I ever imagined when I left their home - for good.  But I was angry, really angry, at their mother for the crimes in which the authorities had uncovered, and I was led to believe, there had to be something very wrong with - me.  I sought counsel but God intervened and opened my eyes to my sin.  Still the fact remained, I could no longer live with her and we settled on a divorce.  Unfortunately, she was not over her antics and committed another crime, even worse than the others and that ended my relationship with my children.  I hurt, I ached more than anything I had ever imagined, but the die was cast.  We have never been able to reconcile our differences.

And the important thing that came out of my experiences was my guilt as being too proud to lay aside my needs and serve the needs of my children.  Many men I have known over the years suffer from the sin of pride, but it is embedded just as it was in the "prodigal's" father.  He allowed his son to come of age without sharing the responsibilities a parent has for the children.  Perhaps, he was too engrossed with making money to ignore the younger son's craving for a better life than he thought possible - with his father.  We don't know, we will never know, but like many parables we discover in the Bible, there is often - more than we suspect, multiple lessons to be learned.

We do need to read the Bible.  Much more importantly, we need to study the Bible.  In my years, I have known only a few teachers, but sadly, the environment in which we all live puts a lot of pressure on creating an earning potential that will satisfy.  So, we pay a price.

The real reason I have written these words is the hope that - having read of my own experiences and the "story" of the "prodigal" son and his father, that maybe someone else might give a second thought about the path they have chosen.  I pray that this will be true.

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