As is the practice with some of us at the start of each year, I began my Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year program this January 1, 2016. One week into the year I am already behind schedule, reading somewhere around Genesis 3 or 4. Nothing about this is particularly unusual for me. I am always filled with good intentions and usually falling behind only a few days after starting my new resolutions.
This however, is not the point.
The point is that I just read Genesis 4. And anyone who is following along (about 5 chapters short of on schedule) in their bible-in-a-year reading knows that Genesis 4 is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel is horribly sad in so many ways. It tells, brief but powerfully, the story of the first murder. Adam and Eve didn’t really lose one son, they lost two, because Cain was sent away to wander East of Eden and away from the presence of God. As a mother of more than one child, the bitterness of the story strikes me all the more.
But it was something new that caught my attention this year. I’ve probably read this story at least 25 times. The word of God is living and active, though, and it convicts and reveals things differently every time I read it. This time, it occurred to me: Comparison killed Abel.
It seems like it all happened so quickly, but really there was a fairly long road filled with multiple poor decisions between the boys’ offering, fruits and flock, and the murder.
Genesis 4:4-5 says, “the LORD looked with favour upon Abel and his offering. But on Cain and his offering He did not look with favour” (NIV). At that point in time, there were several choices before Cain. He could
Obviously, Cain chose the last option. It makes sense, then, that he had to kill Abel. The problem wasn’t his offering. The problem wasn’t God. The problem was Abel. In Cain's mind, Abel got in the way of his receiving God’s favour.
So it also goes with me when I indulge in the ill-advised practice of comparison.
This year, the word I want to carry close to my heart is Identity. Abel’s identity was rooted in the Father. There was intimacy there. Thus, Abel brought God his best. Cain’s identity was rooted in success, affirmation and pride. His identity was in being better than Abel, or at least as good. When that crumbled he could either reject Abel or reject God.
I am the same way. All through the day, I am not enjoying my identity as a daughter—I am usually comparing the way I’m doing everything something with the way someone else is doing the same thing. Or maybe we’ve chosen to do different things (God forbid, I’m doing it wrong! And worse, someone else is doing it right while I’m doing it wrong!)
Like most women, I wear about a hundred hats. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend. I am a sister, an auntie, a daughter-in-law. And all these are just my relational identities. I also find my identity in my gifts: writer, creator, artist, singer. And my hobbies: lover of nature, reader, poet, bargain-hunter, gardener, tour-guide. The list goes on from opinions to appearance and all the minutia in between.
All of these are part of the fearful and wonderful way I am made, but none of them define me so much as my identity as daughter. To be predestined for adoption to [daughter]ship through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will, that is all I need to carry me through the next moment (Eph 1:5).
With each tantrum from my precious daughters (I have five of them!) I wonder if I’m doing this mother thing “right”. Everyone else has children who are so well-behaved and who get along so well. They obey. They seem so much more settled. Then I remember I am a daughter, dearly loved, sacrificed for, rescued, and so are the daughters I am parenting. Even if I’m not doing it right, God loves them so much more than I do. And I love them a LOT.
When my husband and I argue or struggle to connect or serve each other—I can delight in our unique story, written by God for His glory. No use in comparing ours to other marriages that seem, or may actually be, better than ours. We are children, not slaves. We are more precious than many sparrows! He delights in bringing beauty out of ashes.
When my post-five-children body slips into the background of all the beautiful women around me, unworthy of notice for its softness and sagging, tired eyes and dry hair, my un-plucked brows and freckled skin -- even then, I am beautiful in the eyes of my father. He chose me for himself, to adopt me and make me His treasured child.
When I’m too tired to write, or read, or sing, or have an opinion, my identity in Christ runs deeper. When I’m running crazy from one event to the next trying to keep up with what I think I’m supposed to be doing, my identity in my child-ness calls me back to rest.
When Cain was in the throes of his identity crisis, he lashed out at the ones he should have loved most. He spilled Abel’s blood instead of looking inward at the ways God was calling him to a higher standard. Christ spilled His blood so that we might never again wonder about our identity. It’s decided. We are accepted. No more sacrifices, fruits or flock, need be poured out on the altar before our Father. The altar is now a table. Taste and see that His identity has become ours. Sons and Daughters, come and rest.
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