Lessons from The Hardrock Motel

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

July 20, 2014

“Lessons from The Hardrock Motel

Scripture Reading: Genesis 28:10-16

Most of you remember your high school or college experience. I’d like you to focus in on the parts of your studies that included a lab.  I enjoyed my biology class because the professor made the various theories informative and interesting. But the day when he explained how we would work in the lab and eventually dissect a cat brought a chill. The worm, the fish, all the other dissections were fine; but why a cat? The teacher explained that it was to fine to identify the systems on paper, but nothing teaches like “hands on.” Later, after a number of seminary courses in pastoral care and counselling, it came time to enroll in Clinical Pastoral Education, known as CPE, which essentially meant getting out of the classroom setting and into the so-called “real world” of Shadyside Hospital.  My professor was fond of saying, “There’s no better way to learn how to counsel than by doing it,” he said. “You will make mistakes, but you will learn from your mistakes.” Such is life, generally speaking.  How many of you have spent some quality time in the “School of Hard Knocks?” None of us have graduated from the classes it offers. One can withdraw from a subject that is unpopular or skip a few classes at school but this is not done in the School of Hard Knocks.   Jacob was a person with many rough spots in his character; sometimes we look at him critically. But one of the commentaries I read this week felt differently.

“With the appearance of Jacob on the scene, we finally have someone real.  Before Jacob the characters seem to be more one-dimensional in that they ‘pretty much do what God says,’ protesting only a bit here and there. Jacob, though, exhibits a much wider range of human behaviors and impulses, often in a marked departure from the high road that Abraham takes as the first patriarch. And although we might not want to admit it, we can probably identify with Jacob more fully than any of the previous biblical characters.” 

Somehow I resonate with those statements. I know what it is like to take matters into my own hands and I am very familiar with the consequences of those actions. 

Chapter 28 opens with Jacob standing in the presence of his father, Isaac, who is preparing to send his son to choose a bride from among kinfolk in Padan-aram. Jacob is told, “Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan” (vs. 6). With his father’s blessing he “went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.  As evening of the first day falls, Jacob finds himself near the city of Luz. He knows the city gates will close at sundown; therefore he is content to spend the night in the open field, “and he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep” (vs. 10 NKJV). He checked in to the Hardrock Motel.   I have mentioned that Jacob is leaving home because of his father’s wish and with his father’s blessing. But you should also know that Jacob is leaving because if he doesn’t, his twin brother Esau will kill him for cheating him out of the family inheritance. It may not have been his choice to leave home. He may have preferred to stay home with his mother. If he doesn’t go he is a dead man. This leaves me with the feeling that Jacob’s mind and emotions are swirling like a newly disturbed beehive. He feels uprooted. His comfort zone has definitely been invaded. His future is uncertain. He may have scores of questions with no answers. This could make for a very restless night. It could be a night of tossing and turning even if he could lay his weary body and raw emotions on the softest pillow. It was not to be. Instead, he lays his head on a rock.   “…and he took the stones of that place, and put them for pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.”  What are the emotions in that place?  It is a desolate place. For Jacob, it was a lonely place. It was an isolated place. He was traveling light. It was a place of dashed hopes and dreams. A short time earlier he had thought he was getting wealth and power. He gets isolation and separation from his family. He is a man hated by his brother.  He is on the run. Some of us have been in THAT PLACE.

Somehow he falls asleep. He dreams of a ladder that reaches to heaven with angels (messengers) of God going up and down on it. One probably should not think of a ladder in the contemporary sense of the word, but rather something like the Mesopotamian ziggurat; a ramp-like structure that served as a divine sanctuary through which heaven and earth were connected. This stairway to heaven does not give Jacob access to heaven; rather, God speaks to Jacob where he is.

In this divine speech, God reiterates the promises that God has made to Jacob’s ancestors, Abraham and Isaac:

“I will give you the land…Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth…All people will be blessed through you.”

With this gesture, God emphasizes that God is not only the God of the first and the second generation. Rather at the point at which Jacob is most vulnerable, God asserts that God is also the God of Jacob. And then there is a promise that is unique to Jacob in that God promises to bring Jacob back to this land. When Jacob wakes from his dream, his circumstances have not changed, but he is a changed man.

A Jewish Psychologist named Victor Frankl discovered a great truth in the midst of a German concentration camp during WWII.   Later in describing his experience in the Nazi death camp he said, “They stripped me naked. They took everything – my wedding ring, watch. I stood there naked and all of a sudden realized at that moment that although they could take everything away from me – my wife, my family, my possessions – they could not take away my freedom to choose how I was going to respond.  The freedom to choose how we are going to respond to any situation, any problem or difficulty, is a God-given gift freely available to every one of us.

To those of us who find it difficult to “see” any good in the things that are happening as we spend time in the Hardrock Motel, let us remember we have a choice.

May we “awake” from our complaining.  May we “awake” from our whining.  May we “awake” from feeling sorry for ourselves.

May we awake from making excuses.  May we “awake” from blaming others.  May we “awake” to a full awareness of God’s promise, provision and presence!

May we find comfort and strength in knowing that God is with us.

These are the Lessons we can learn from our stay at The Hardrock Motel.