Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage (Genesis 25:27-34) transports me to the office of Police Commissioner Anna Devane in Port Charles, where she is having a conversation with mobster and suitor Duke Lavery. [Here’s a curious bit of trivia about me and Kim – we met in Hebrew class in seminary and while we spent a lot of time translating texts like the passage today, we spent about as much time watching soaps together. Our favorite was definitely GH, which I introduced her to, and our favorite characters were Duke and Anna. We loved imitating those accents, especially Duke’s Scottish brogue.] The scene in Anna’s office is particularly memorable. Duke and Anna are having a conversation about the enthusiastic new police officer, Frisco. Here’s the dialogue:
Anna: I wish he would settle down, he’s always so over anxious, one of the most impatient people I know.
Duke: Patience is overrated.
Anna: What would you know?
Duke: It’s never been my long suit, that’s for sure. I always think that if you have to wait for something then it really is not worth waiting for in the first place.
Anna: It depends on what you want and how much you want it.
Duke: Frisco’s not the only one that’s growing desperate, Anna.
Anna: You have something in common with Frisco?
Duke: Yeah, we’re both hungry, Frisco for a career and. . .
Anna: What are you hungry for?
Duke: I’m starvin’ for affection.
Anna: A man like you shouldn’t have any trouble finding that.
Duke: Would you care to help me look?
There’s no telling how many times I attempted that Scottish accented line with Kim: I’m starvin’ for affection. It never got old. And for some strange reason, that’s what came to mind when I read today’s passage. Maybe it’s because the Old Testament reads like such a soap opera, with family dysfunction and intrigue and betrayal and deception and manipulation. The characters today are two brothers, Jacob and Esau. And like Duke and Frisco, they are both hungry. Esau, the impatient elder brother with his stomach growling, is starving for some red stew. Jacob, the impatient younger brother with his spirit growling, is starving for something deeper, for the opportunity to be somebody, to take the reins of leadership, to change the world. And so they strike a deal. Cue the melodramatic music. Esau betrays his treasured birthright, setting the stage for Jacob to become Israel.
Of course this is more than soap opera, more than intrigue and manipulation and a cliff-hanger to keep you reading. It’s a story showing how spiritual struggles are central to the seemingly ordinary bread and butter routines of our daily lives. I can’t help but read this passage about appetite in the light of all we know now about the phenomenon of addiction, the desperate and always frustrating quest to satisfy spiritual needs with material things, whether it’s alcohol, food, drugs, sex, money. The father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, recognized that addiction was in reality a low level search for God and he counseled his alcoholic patients that what they needed more than anything was a genuine spiritual conversion. Through Jung’s influence, AA and 12 step programs came into being. He wrote about the need for vital spiritual experiences, in which ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of [our] lives . . . are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them. Sounds like the kind of transformation Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount, when he encouraged his followers to trade in their material appetites for spiritual appetites. It’s the hunger for our birthright as children of God that gets us into that space where we forget all about eating the bread of anxious toil; it’s what shrinks our appetite for greed, vengeance, violence, and prejudice. This reorientation happens when we find ourselves “starving for God’s affection.” Folks like you shouldn’t have any trouble finding that. Would you care to help me look?
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.