Jacob’s ladder of success


The truth about me today is that I feel mad. MAD. I feel thwarted at every turn. There are so many things I want to do, that I aspire to do, that I plan to do… and yet, a wall. One delay after another. And so, today, I just stopped. I picked up the kitten I’m “baby-sitting” and laid on my son’s bed. MAD. And I thought to myself, fine. If I can’t do the things I need to do, then I’m just going to lay here and do nothing. NOTHING. And I lay there and seethed, dripping in fury. But as I lay there, and sleep beckoned me, I began to think. Well, there’s the cucumbers that need to be drained (canning tonight). And there’s the load of clothes in the dryer and the wet ones in the wash. And the sink full of dirty dishes, and there are emails to answer (for work). And lastly, but certainly not least, there’s my son who needs my attention. And so, I arose. But after arising, I had some new thoughts about my anger. Well, old ones, really, but those thoughts were brought to the forefront of my mind.

My anger. I know why it flares up. I see it every time. It’s when I don’t get my way. And when things don’t go my way, it’s my selfish nature that’s on full display for all to see. And yet, I think it goes a bit deeper… as I lay in my vegetative state this afternoon (which was really just a reverse tantrum), I contemplated my feelings of ire. And I realized that although my anger is derived from my selfishness, ultimately, it’s the lure of success that feeds the selfishness. And by not achieving the success I grasp at so desperately, I feel mad. MAD. And so, I climb up a few rungs, only to slide back down making little or no progress. And so I ask myself, what exactly am I trying to gain? What exactly am I trying to prove? What is it that pulls me to climb higher? And I see… it’s not God and what He would call success, but worldly success that woes me to climb, climb, climb. If I want to be truthful, and since this blog is called the Truth about God & me, I suppose I must, I have to confess that maybe my definition of success more closely resembles the 2nd one I read below.

  1. achievement of intention: the achievement of something planned or attempted
  2. attainment of fame, wealth, or power: impressive achievement, especially the attainment of fame, wealth, or power
  3. something that turns out well: something that turns out as planned or intended

Jacob, the Patriarch, has been brought to mind several times here lately. More particularly, that infamous dream of his… Jacob’s ladder. And I didn’t pay much attention at first, because I thought his story was old news as far as I was concerned. See, I thought I had already gained all that I could from Jacob’s story (since I had read it many times before). But today… today, I saw something new. Today, I saw something in Jacob’s life that aligns right alongside mine. I saw that Jacob did the same thing I’m doing today… grasping at success. And perhaps, he was trying to climb that worldly ladder of success, too. Because he sure did whatever he could to get there.

I had always been told that Jacob’s name means deceit. True, that, but my Bible shows another definition of his name… He Gasps the Heel. And I think this meaning sheds new light on Jacob. Blue Letter Bible (online) shows “heel holder” or “supplanter,” and if you go just a step further and look up the root word of his name, you’ll find “to supplant, circumvent, take by the heel, assail insidiously, overreach.” This was Jacob. The Patriarch. Abraham’s grandson. And perhaps it was his destiny to be deceitful, to be a heel grabber, to be a supplanter, for the LORD appeared to his mother and said, “Two nations are in your womb; two people will com from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23

Sure enough, it began at birth. Esau emerged from his mother’s womb, but afterward Jacob… grasping his brother’s heel. Even then, so young, did he think, “Me first!” Me first. Did Jacob know what the LORD told his mother? Did she share that information… that the older will serve the younger? Or did Jacob just do what came naturally to him? Did he enter the world with a me first mentality, and did he feel that he would do whatever it took to rise to the top? Did he care who he hurt along the way? And what about the path he chose? Did he overreach his bounds through his actions? Did he circumvent God’s plan to achieve his own as he supplanted his elder brother? Or, was everything Jacob did necessary for his life’s journey. Let’s go back and see…

Esau was hungry. Where was Jacob’s compassion when his brother asked for something to eat? Rather than graciously fill a bowl, Jacob took advantage of the situation and demanded that Esau sell him his birthright. And as Esau did, Jacob ascended a rung of the ladder of success. Worldly speaking. And the big one… the stolen blessing. What treachery… what trickery… what thievery… what deceit! Jacob actually dressed in goat skins so that he would be hairy like his brother. He pretended to be Esau before his elderly father, who had poor eyesight. And the ploy worked, and Jacob gained the blessing that Isaac intended for his eldest son. Surely this act alone propelled him up that ladder three or four rungs. He achieved what he set out to do… success. He, the younger, ended up with Esau’s birthright and his blessing. The older would surely serve the younger.

But then, reality set in. Oh, Jacob gained what he wanted alright, but his brother wanted to kill him. Esau was mad. MAD. And he wouldn’t forget. And so, Jacob did what most of us would do. At his mother’s prompting, he ran away. And so, he left his home and went on a journey. And darkness descended upon him. I would venture to say his heart was as dark as his surroundings.

He reached a certain place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took one of the stones from the place, put it there at his head, and lay down in that place. And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. Genesis 28:11-12

I love this portion of Scripture. Because this is the moment that Jacob encountered the living God. This is the moment that the LORD God, God of Abraham, and God of his father became Jacob’s personal God. This is the moment that God became real to Him. It’s where God came down and met Jacob… right where he was. In the midst of the darkness and in the midst of the mess that he made of his life. God came to him, and made promises to Jacob. He promised blessing, and a future through his offspring, and God said that He was with him. God said, “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When Jacob woke up from his slumber, he knew the truth. He knew God had visited him, and gave him that dream. And Jacob did what he should have. He did what we should all do when we encounter the living God.

Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. Genesis 28:18

Jacob marked the moment. For this was the real beginning for Jacob, when God became his own. And from that moment on, Jacob began gathering stones. But first, God gave Jacob a vision. He gave Jacob a dream. A good dream. And perhaps it was then that Jacob realized the ladder of success he had been climbing was not worth climbing at all. Because God showed him another ladder… one that reached to heaven.

See, Jacob was a ladder climber. Just like me. And it was Jacob’s nature to do whatever he thought necessary to climb to the top… rung by rung. He stopped at nothing to achieve what he purposed. And he didn’t stop long enough to think about who was hurt in the process. Not until it was too late. Am I any different? The truth is… as I ascend the so called ladder of success, rung by rung, I do the same thing that Jacob did. I want what I want. I want success. And I have a dream, so I lay aside so many things as I feed that dream. I do whatever I think is necessary to further the dream. But at what cost? Because usually, I don’t stop long enough to think about those I hurt in the process. Not until it’s too late. Like my little boy, who sits in the other room as I type. What about him? My dream is good, yes. I do want to write for God. But now, I have to ask myself… Is it for His glory? Or mine? Because it started out for Him. But as I ascended a rung, the next one didn’t look so high. And so, the original dream faded… my dream became bigger. But God’s gives dreams. And the dream He gave to Jacob is the one He gives to me.

Oh, I have a dream. But God’s dream is bigger. And the truth is, until my dream is God’s dream… I’ll slide right down that ladder of success I so desperately try to climb. Before I know it, I’ll be back on the ground. And so, I remember… the bigger dream. I remember a ladder, with angels going up and down on it. And I remember Him. Not me and my success. But His. It’s His dream. Always was, and always will be.

Then He said, “I assure you; You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51

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