We do not always have physical comforts in life. Jacob takes a stone for a pillow in the Genesis reading today. He finds rest for his body but his mind wanders into an amazing dream world where a ladder is set up on earth and reaches heaven. Angels ascend and descend on it. God appears and makes promises to Jacob: the land upon which he is sleeping will become his, his offspring will cover the earth, all the families of the world will be blessed because of him, and God will go with him and protect him.
When Jacob awakes, he takes the stone that he used for a pillow and transforms it into a pillar, anointing it with oil. The pillow has become a sacred sign for him and he promises to return to it, with part of what he will have accrued. What began as a night of weariness became a reason for celebration. Sometimes, when we just keep putting one foot ahead of another, God shows up in extraordinary ways in our lives.
We have choices in life. Jacob does not grumble about his rock-hard pillow. Jacob also has something else that helps him be open to God’s appearance–he gratefully is seeking God in all things. Surely the Lord is in this place–and I did not know it. However when he does recognize the holy ground upon which he slept he rejoices. How awesome is this place! This is the the gate of heaven. Then he acts on his gratitude and builds a shrine to God. Jacob could have whined about his predicament. He could have stayed up all night and missed the dream. He could have gotten caught up in the news of his future and run full tilt into the glory that would be his. He did not do this either. He took time to honour God. Jacob uses the source of his discomfort to build a marker in memory of this experience. God tells him that many people will be blessed in him. Jacob begins by praising the One who with the angels descended the ladder from heaven to earth to give him this news personally.
Many people use their pain stories to perpetuate their victimhood. Others thrive on resilience and inspire all who witness this. I am uncomfortable when people tell me that I am remarkable. I do not always agree with the statement because I know that I fall short every single day of where I wish I was in the grace and mercy departments. I will say that in reading this story today, I do know that people have been blessed through God’s goodness to me. I hope I point back to the One who has fluffed my pillow numerous times these past few years and know that any ounce of inspiration starts there–in my search for God and my forever relationship with my Creator. I am hopefully showing people that we all must live until we die. God has a plan for each of us–a plan of hope and peace, not despair and sorrow.
Wouldn’t it be great if the Holy One would show up in our dreams and let us know? Perhaps. If I knew 10 years ago that I would not see 100 would I have done much differently? I doubt it. I have tried to live fully from an early age, pushing past fears and stretching my tiny comfort zone. God was so abundantly gracious to me throughout my life–which does not mean that I have had a bedroom full of feather pillows with satin cases–that I know my life has been amazing. I am thankful for the challenges and the celebrations. I have seen God in them all. Hopefully, I erected some pillars along the way too so that God’s goodness is extolled by those who see them.
When have you not seen God’s presence in a situation that is not easy?
How has God blessed your life?
Pillow-Fluffer, you make hard situations more comfortable. Help us to seek you in all things and to be open to the encounter. May we always give you thanks and praise for your goodness to us. May my life be a worthy reflection of the gifts you have given to me. Amen.