But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” Gen 33: 13-14 NIV
He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. Isaiah 40:11 NLT
This passage in Genesis is a segment of conversation between Jacob and Esau as the brothers were finishing a very important conversation. A long awaited reunion with the best possible outcome that only God could have orchestrated. Reconciliation. These brothers were born competing with one another. Literally. It even says in Genesis 19 that Jacob came out grasping the heel of his older brother Esau. Can someone say breach birth?! Ouch! But that is beside the point…
This competition continued as they grew up to be very different kinds of men. Eventually there was trickery and blackmail. Jacob convinced Esau to sell his birthright (Esau’s right to take over the head of the family and estate) for a measly bowl of stew.
Bear with me as I continue to summarize. It’s important.
Jacob then pretends to be Esau and his blind father blesses him with the family blessing. Jacobs leaves shortly after in fear for his life from an angry Esau. The snippet of scripture above is the reunion of these two brothers 20 years later.
This is important to reiterate because of the extreme pressure of the situation. The hope for good will and the desire of Jacob to please his older brother for the sake of reconciliation.
At the end of this exchange, Esau presses his younger brother with his desire to travel with him. Then Esau presses Jacob again with his desire for his men to accompany Jacob’s caravan.
Jacob, despite the pressure of a freshly renewed relationship, continues to hold his ground and keep in mind the needs of his caravan at the risk of the offense of turning down his brother’s cordial offerings.
This observation is really secondary to the the main premise of the passage. But it is oh so applicable to our lives today.
THIS is the essence of social pressure.
I find this astounding!
How many times have you said yes to something that you so very much regretted later? You put yourself, your family, and your priorities at risk, compromising for less than the best.
Many times we find ourselves in this position time and time again for three reasons:
1). We haven’t pre-thought our priorities and their implementation in our lives.
2). We haven’t planned for being tempted to compromise them.
3). Lastly but most importantly, we do not see the value in OUR role. Your position can be filled by no other and you are just the person for the job. You are the one to lead and guide the people you influence or who are under you with their safety in mind.
It is very easy to come up with a list of priorities.
The most important and hardest piece is applying these priorities to the decisions we face every day. This is where the guidance of our helper, the Holy Spirit, is truly our source of comfort and help.
I love the history that Jacob has in journeying with the Lord. Long before this conversation with Esau took place, Jacob had spent plenty of time in communion and relationship with God.
It was during these times that God would reassure him of himself and his promises to Jacob as he confirmed Jacob’s destiny once again. Even if it was a wrestling match at one point!
Jacob was prepared for this moment because He had already talked to God about it and knew where his priorities lay. He knew his identity.
By this time, his name was no longer Jacob but Israel. He understood his calling and place. The promise of Abraham that was now his. To be a Father of many nations.
Jacob understood his destiny because he had already wrestled with God over it. He knew exactly what his objective was.
Do you know your objective?
Hence, when push came to shove, Jacob knew the great plan and could continue to stay aligned with it, even under pressure. Even in the midst of a difficult situation where compromise is such a temptation, he stayed true to his course and God’s plan.
If we do not have this history with the Lord….Times of wrestling and deep searching with Him, we will inevitably cave when pressure hits. We will compromise the things most important to us.
A pastor of our church always used to say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” Man is that ever true!
I feel like a distracted little kid in sunday school trying not to kick my shoes and wiggle in my seat. Fixing my gaze on the teachers face, hoping my mind will follow and absorb. It takes practice. It takes an exercise of growth and strength.
What is your main thing?
I love how it says in the passage above: “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young.”
Jacob is sensitive to the people He is called to lead and protect. He stays in touch with their needs even in the midst of being pulling towards another direction.
“If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”
This strikes me with such a force straight in my gut. We are the leaders of those under us.
We are all leading somebody.
We have influence over others. Are you leading gently? Are you staying true to your position?
I have been guilty of driving the people in my own life. They suffer under my fear of needing to keep a faster pace and keep up with my ideals of what (I) think we should do rather than listening to them and the Holy spirit for their needs and care.
I love how Jacob realizes the importance of allowing the little ones to move at their pace. He knows that eventually they will get there too. It doesn’t have to be fast, or at the same time as Esau’s crew. He is content to fall behind for the sake of those he is entrusted with protecting. He knows each child and lamb as the Lord knows us. He is leading a great future nation, after all. He leads carefully and with purpose.
Do you allow the Lord to lead YOU gently or are you working up a lather pulling on the reigns?
Do you gently lead those in your charge?
What is your pace?
Is it the pace you and your people need?
A pace of safety for you and those you love?
Sometimes our schedules run us rather than us running our schedules. We end up compromising what is most important for things we value less.
I am still learning but here are a few things I keep in my back pocket; and I hope they can be of use to you.
1). Delay before you say…
- It is perfectly acceptable to let people know at a later point whether you can commit or not. This removes regret and gives you a chance to once again take into account your priorities and their current status.
2). Plan for the overload before it happens.
- Look at your calendar, the pulse of your family. Have you been going too late and too hard lately? If the commitment is farther out…is it near a holiday? Or other typical events. Plan for space because many times even the space can get taken by unexpected things. Sickness, extra school assignments, and even better opportunities that would align with your goals and mission.
3). Check for alignment with your mission?
- Do you have a family mission/mission statement? For example, part of our family mission is to be lifelong learners who love Jesus and others. Sometimes that means the extra things have to go for a while. Sometimes, it means trading one activity so a new one can be started that better aligns with our values. Sometimes it means saying no to an engagement to prioritize family time. Sometimes, it means prioritizing others as we commit to serving Jesus together as as family. The look may vary, but the filter remains the same so that we can remain purposeful.
4). Accounting for personalities.
- We have a mixture of introverts and extroverts in our family. Too much of getting out or staying in can be disastrous in either extreme. When looking at our calendar, these things are considered.
5). One size does not fit all.
- Every family has a different rhythm and pace. As a mother, I frequently feel unsure of my motherhood choices. I want so badly to be a good mom, wife, friend etc. Due to this, I can easily be led by fear rather than by the Holy Spirit and His peace. I have found so much help in learning from other families and moms. It has been one of my greatest joys and life’s blessings to journey and learn alongside others. However, this can also be to my greatest detriment as I forget to ultimately run things past the one who knows my people best and has all the answers. Do not be led by fear and comparison. Be led by Him. He will lead you gently and safely.
6). Let your yes’ be yes and your no’s be no.
- We are to be an example and a light. To be dependable and follow through on our word. When we do not actively examine our yes’s and no’s, it is easy to over commit and end up saying no on the back end rather than the front end. This happens when we’ve given too many yes’ and struggle to show up on time, back out last minute, etc. Front end examination helps to eliminate hindsight issues. This alone can really set us apart as christians. Being true to our word. It takes up front work to examine but it saves you on the homestretch from damaging your witness and relationships. It saves a lot of future pain and hardship.
The biggest nugget of all is that the pace He desires for our families, He also desires for US!
He wants to lead YOU and I gently. Safely.
If we feel driven at whipping pace as we try to lead our people gently and safely, that franticness transfers over. This is because our actions are rooted in fear of not doing enough and being enough rather than in knowing that He loves US. YOU and I. And that He is enough. He has supplied all things that we need because we are called according to his purposes.
Before we can lead gently, we have to allow ourselves to be led gently, first.
Be led gently dear sisters.
Be led by Him.
He is not a difficult task master.
He is a loving Father who desires your safety and good.
He loves you.
Walk in boldness and liberty.
Walk in Him.