Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Isaac & Rebekah: Where's the Romance?

We've been looking at Abraham and Sarah for several posts. Today I want to look at Abraham's son, Isaac. Sarah bore Isaac when she was old. It came to pass that Sarah died. After burying Sarah, Abraham set out to find a wife for Isaac. In Genesis 24 we read, "And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all he had, 'Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.'"

Abraham's servant went back to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac. The servant asked for a specific sign from God to decide which woman he would approach with the prospect of returning with him to marry Isaac. It turns out that Rebekah did exactly what the servant prayed for, so the servant made his offer to Rebekah and her family. Rebekah decided that the offer was from God, so she agreed to follow Abraham's servant back to Canaan to marry Isaac.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Isaac was out in a field meditating when his father's servant came riding up with Rebekah. "And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death" (Gen. 24:66-67).

What I want to zoom in on from the biography of Isaac and Rebekah is the obvious, yet often overlooked lack of a three and half year, sexually active dating period where both try to decide if they're in love with each other. Isaac and Rebekah were hooked up. They were truly a blind date. We're not even sure if Isaac knew Abraham's servant was out procuring him a wife. This type of arrangement flies in the face of our modern romantic comedy-driven culture.

So many couples get married because they think they've fallen in love. Well, what happens when one falls out of love? The apparent answer is divorce. We have people falling in love and falling out of love all over the place. Marriage is not viewed as a covenant of companionship, lasting for the rest of one's life. It is viewed as a contract promising exclusive mating rights for a time. In other words, marriage is viewed as just really intense dating, with little more security than a steady dating relationship.

Isaac and Rebekah mock our romantically driven, relational flimsiness. They were married because they made the decision to be husband and wife. Rebekah made that decision before she ever met Isaac or his family. She made that decision before she had any idea if he would be good in bed. She had no chance to preview her catch. She made a decision and stuck by it. She didn't even have the benefit of an internet test matching 1,546,389 points of compatibility. She trusted the God of Abraham's servant with her future.

Isaac loved Rebekah. He loved her without ever having opportunity to fall in love with her. He saw her coming across a field, was informed by his servant that this was his new wife, and he loved her. In "The Pursuit of Pleasure in the Pleasure of Another" I wrote that love flows from a sense of beauty or value. Isaac had little opportunity to assess Rebekah's value. He just trusted that Rebekah would be a good wife for him. So he loved her.

I think that Isaac and Rebekah challenge us to question the legitimacy of basing our values on the music, movies and personalities in the culture. The same people who bring us romantic comedies have proven over and over again the folly of such fairy tales by their real life relationships. I have counseled couples who seem to be looking for some magical, mystical "click" that elevates their relationship to some sublime level. That level may be attainable in Sleepless in Seattle, Kate and Leopold, or the other bazillion romantic movies out there, but they're movies. Real life is more like Isaac and Rebekah.

We know our spouses about as well as Isaac and Rebekah knew each other. We probably haven't gotten married blindly. But we try to. We put on our best face with our spouses-to-be so that by the time they marry us, they really have no idea who they're marrying. They think they're marrying a sweet, wealthy, popular, well adjusted, good-looking guy who's going places. They soon discover they married a broke ogre with a bad back and smelly breath. Our marriages end up comedies alright. Just not romantic ones.

So what's the point of all this? Be content with the spouse you have. Stop looking for your "true love" and truly love the man or woman you have. Maybe you don't value your spouse right now. Value is flexible. It can be nurtured, or neglected. Nurture your love for your spouse, rather than trying to make your spouse into some romantic ideal. And you just might find that Isaac and Rebekah is one of the most romantic accounts in the whole Bible.

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