We’re in to week #5 of our New Church Journey Program called, Shift: Small Changes. Big Difference. This program follows the story of Jacob from the Old Testament. This week’s topic is “Shift of Motivation”.
Genesis 30:25-43, 31:1-55: This week’s story involves Jacob finally deciding after twenty years that it is time to leave Laban. He gathers together his wives, children, livestock, and possessions and prepares to return to the land of his fathers.
“Laban” represents something in our own lives called mediate goods. Mediate goods are not 100% good in themselves, but they appear to be good for a time. Mediate goods are useful, but only because they have the ability to lead you to something better. One example of a mediate good is the belief that the good you do comes from yourself. This is not true. However, if the Lord did not permit you to be motivated by this to begin with, you would never get to the point of acknowledging what is genuinely good – that all good comes from the Lord alone. Being motivated by the desire for rewards is another example of a mediate good. What would be genuinely good would be for people to be motivated by a desire to serve the Lord and their neighbor. But we will never get to this point unless the Lord allows us to first be motivated by the thought, “What can I get out of this: Praise; fame; people will think I’m important; heaven?”
Jacob living with Laban for twenty years represents times when we are motivated by these mediate goods. This is okay because it’s a normal and necessary part of the process. However, eventually something starts to change. Jacob and Laban are not getting along with each other as well as they used to. After twenty years the Lord finally says to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3)
There comes a time in everybody’s life when it’s time to “grow up” and move beyond some of the mediate goods that have been motivating them. The Lord calling Jacob and telling him to return to the land of his fathers, represents a beautiful calling that the Lord gives to us: It’s time to let go of the more selfish and worldly thing that have been motivating you for so long; it’s time to move on to higher things that are closer to the Divine and His heavenly kingdom.
This is a call that we all experience in our own way. It can be hard to put into words, but have you ever felt that something just isn’t working in your life anymore? Perhaps you don’t feel satisfied with the direction things are going; maybe you’re tired of facing the same problems over and over again. For me personally, I feel like I’ve felt this call at times when life seems like a big game, and I’m tired of playing it! I’m tired of living life to please and impress those around me. I’m tired of having my life revolve so much around money and my need to pay the next bill. I’m tired of trying to keep up with the busy world around me that insists on chasing after so many empty joys and delights, and that defines “success” in such finite and limited ways. I love you Laban and I appreciate all you’ve done for me, but after twenty years I’ve had enough…I’m ready to move on.
This week’s topic is about recognizing when it’s time to make a change. Read the passage below and reflect on all the “mediate goods” that tend to motivate you in life. Can you hear the Lord calling you to something higher…something better? What would it look like to finally be able to leave “Laban” behind and instead allow your heart to be motivated by higher realities that are much closer to the Divine and His heavenly kingdom? I think it would be an incredibly freeing experience…and that it would allow me to be a lot more useful!
The question is, how do you make that choice to leave Laban? Remember that Laban wasn’t so keen on letting Jacob leave.
“Then the Angel of God spoke to Jacob in a dream, saying, Jacob. And I said, Here I am. And He said, Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and grey-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethuel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your kindred.” (Genesis 31:11-13)
“When a person is being regenerated, he is kept by the Lord in a kind of mediate good. This good serves for introducing genuine goods and truths; but after these have been introduced, it is separated from them. Everyone who has learned anything about regeneration and about the new man, can understand that the new man is altogether different from the old; for the new man is in the affection of spiritual and heavenly things, and these produce its feelings of delight and blessedness; whereas the old man is in the affections of worldly and earthly things, and these produce its feelings of delight and blessedness; consequently the new man has regard to ends in heaven, but the old man to ends in the world. From this it is manifest that the new man is altogether different and diverse from the old. In order that a person may be brought from the state of the old man into that of the new, worldly passions must be put off, and the affections of heaven must be put on. This is effected by innumerable means, which are known to the Lord alone, and many of which have also been made known by the Lord to angels; but few if any to man. Nevertheless all of them both in general and particular have been made manifest in the internal sense of the Word. When therefore a person, from being the old man is made a new one (that is, when he is being regenerated), it is not done in a moment, as some believe, but through a course of years; nay, during the person’s whole life, even to its end; for his worldly passions have to be extirpated, and heavenly affections have to be insinuated; and the person has to be gifted with a life which he had not before, and of which indeed he knew scarcely anything. Seeing therefore that the person’s states of life have to be so greatly changed, it must needs be that he is long kept in a kind of mediate good, that is, in a good which partakes both of the affections of the world, and of the affections of heaven; and unless he is kept in this mediate good, he in no wise admits heavenly goods and truths. This mediate or middle good is what is signified by “Laban and his flock.” But a person is kept in this middle good no longer than until it has served this use; but this having been served, it is separated. This separation is treated of in this chapter. “ (Swedenborg – Secrets of Heaven 4063)