Defined by Relationships

This morning I found myself reading through the fifth chapter of Genesis. If you do not remember that particular chapter, it’s entirely devoted to genealogy: He begot him, lived several hundred years and had other sons and daughters; so on and so forth. While usually these biblical genealogies cause my eyes to glaze over and tempt me to quickly scan ahead, today I stayed with the whole chapter.

Truthfully, I do not often get much out of these chapters that is in anyway worth sharing with others. Today, a couple of thoughts struck me as I finished the chapter.

  1. In days before people enjoyed the benefits of hip and knee replacements, or even medical devices to provide mobility assistance, these guys were living a long time. Even Enoch who is suddenly whisked away by God at the tender age of 365 years, must have needed help getting around. Okay, that may not have been important enough to share either.
  2. Only guys are mentioned by name in this chapter. True, they all are credited with having other daughters, but none of the daughters or mothers are mentioned by name in this particular chapter. I don’t have a point to make from that, it’s just there.
  3. Perhaps it was because today is New Year’s Eve and our minds start to think about resolutions for the coming year and what we have accomplished in the previous year, what really stayed with me from this genealogical record in Scripture is that these men are defined by their relationships. Births are what mark their lives. Adam was 130 years old when he became the father of Seth. Adam lived 800 years after the birth of Seth. Seth was 105 when he became the father of Enosh. Seth lived 807 years after the birth of Enosh.

In reading this, I began to think about how I often introduce myself to people. Like most people, I introduce myself according to my job. Maybe I should start introducing myself as the father of Matthew, but I’m not telling how old I was at the time.

Robert Waldinger in a recent TED talk entitled, “What Makes A Good Life?” says that relationships are the real key to happiness across the span of our lives.

Tonight, New Year’s Eve, many will gather to sing some version of Robert Burns’ poem, “Auld Lang Syne.” The poem asks rhetorically, whether or not we should forget old acquaintances.

Perhaps the reason the Bible records so many of these genealogies, is so that we do not loose sight of how our relationships help define our living. In other genealogies, the Bible records the bad along with the good. We are reminded that not all relationships are healthy or even helpful. Some hurt and are in need of redemption. But they cannot be forgotten, for they help shape us as who we are today.

So maybe tonight is a night to join with the old Scots that Burns celebrates in his poem and ‘drink a cup of kindness’ for our acquaintances.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?…….

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
” Robert Burns