Glancing at the Christmas card as I sorted mail, my stomach lurched. Something wasn’t quite right. Examining the photo more carefully, I saw that among the smiling faces, one member of the family was conspicuously absent. I realized an old friend must’ve had a major shift occur in her life. Without a letter to accompany the photo, I was at a loss.
Showing the picture to my husband, I began to speculate, “What do you think happened? Do we have a mutual friend who might know their story?” I couldn’t think of anyone I could contact to ask. My next idea was to scan the family’s social media pages for clues, but I came up with no new information. Then a thought occurred to me—why not just reach out directly to my friend? I was hesitant. Our paths hadn’t crossed in a long time and I didn’t want to seem nosy or like I was just after “scoop.” Finally, I reasoned that over two decades of friendship was enough to show her I genuinely cared.
After exchanging several messages, we set up a time to meet. Sitting face to face with steaming cups of tea, we finally had the opportunity to share about our lives. Eventually, we also discussed the mystery behind her Christmas card photo. It was a good conversation with some hard moments, but filled with love, encouragement and compassion. We said goodbye resolving not to let so much time pass before we connected again. It’s one of those friendships I cherish, despite the infrequency of our time together.
I’ll admit, I had been a little nervous to reach out to her, but what would I have missed if I had called a mutual acquaintance to ask for “the scoop” on her instead? How real would our connection have been if I’d found the answer on her Facebook page and had sent a message to wish her well?
No one likes to have hard conversations. We don’t like to talk about situations that make us feel awkward or uncomfortable. Most of us avoid entering into dialogue with someone who doesn’t see things the same way we do. Sadly, this is as true for our relationships with spouses and family members as it is with friends, co-workers and even partners in ministry.
The art of avoidance is part of our nature–there are examples of it all around us and even in the lives of familiar characters in the Bible. And we also see the destruction it causes. A good case in point is Rebekah, the wife of Isaac and mother to twins Jacob and Esau. Recorded in the book of Genesis, the stories about Rebekah and her family provide a cautionary tale about the dangers of avoiding hard conversations and choosing to manipulate situations in the background instead.
From the time she was pregnant with her boys, Rebekah knew that there would be challenges. When she prayed to ask God why her babies “jostled each other within her”, the LORD answered:
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23, NIV)
As the boys grew, Rebekah favored their second born twin, Jacob, while Isaac preferred their firstborn, Esau. Rebekah wanted to see Jacob fulfill God’s prophecy, but rather than talking with her husband about it, she schemed behind his back. She resorted to creating an elaborate plan to deceive Isaac and ensure Jacob would receive all the rights and privileges of a firstborn son. Ultimately, Isaac discovered the deception, but there is no record of him confronting Rebekah. In fact, the only conversation mentioned reveals Rebekah telling him a half-truth and manipulating him further. (You can read the story in Genesis 27).
Rebekah’s deception seemed to accomplish her desire: Jacob received the birthright and covenant blessings God had promised to the boys’ grandfather, Abraham. But she paid a high price, ultimately having to send away her favorite son so he wouldn’t be killed by his vengeful brother. There is no record in Scripture of Rebekah ever seeing her beloved Jacob again.
I wonder if Rebekah ever considered that God had the power to ensure the prophecy would be fulfilled, even without her schemes. How could she have forgotten that He did the impossible by enabling her to conceive twins after twenty years of being barren? Why was her first inclination to deceive her husband instead of simply talking with him about their differing opinions? Was it too contentious? Too awkward? Too challenging?
Think about all of the effort she expended to avoid a confrontation with Isaac, opting to work behind the scenes instead to get what she wanted. Now think about how it all turned out. God’s plans were accomplished, but the family fractured itself in the process.
Now consider your life. Is there an issue you’ve been steering clear of with a family member, friend, co-worker or partner in ministry? Are you expending more energy artfully avoiding the situation than you would be confronting it? Let me encourage you to take the first step toward resolving it by praying. Ask God to give you wisdom. Tell Him why you’re struggling. Share your worst fear with Him about this situation. Ask Him to give you courage. Invite Him to show you when and how to deal with the issue in a way that honors Him and brings healing to you and anyone else involved. It’s worth a try, isn’t it? Give God room to work and watch Him transform your difficult situation in His perfect timing. Stop avoiding and start living the abundant life He meant for you to have.
Francesca Battistelli’s song “If We’re Honest” invites us to consider the blessing of facing our fears instead of avoiding them. Click on the link and be inspired by the music.