Monday, June 01, 2009


I started saying it when my girls were very young. I’d pull their feathery fine hair into a tiny rubber band or barrette, and they’d squawk or even cry, “Mommy, it hurts!” Then the famous phrase: “It hurts to be beautiful, honey.” Their hair got longer, and we graduated to French braids, twisting and pulling between my fingers. I shared with them the exquisite feminine discomforts of plucked eyebrows and armpit razor burn. Then came the day Trina wanted me to highlight her hair. We purchased a kit at the drugstore and fit the tight little cap on her head. Silky, long brown hair hung down twelve inches below the cap, and I stood with what looked like a crochet hook in hand, reading the instructions aloud: “Pull small tufts of hair through holes in cap with the hair hook…” After 45 minutes of torturing my child, we were both in tears. I asked if she wanted me to stop, and this time from her lips came the mantra: “No, Mom. It hurts to be beautiful.” A few years later, our daughter Emily lived in Brazil as an exchange student and adopted the cultural practice of salon waxing. And let me tell you, in Brazil, they wax everything. When Emily returned, with legs and pits as smooth as a baby’s bottom (and no need to shave again for 2 months, ladies!), I asked the obvious question, “Didn’t it hurt like the dickens?” She answered with her mother’s wise words, “Yes, but it hurts to be beautiful.” Now, I joke with my girls about their beauty, but they know the real truth. I may have hurt them in small ways to teach them little womanly arts, but my covenant with them as a parent is to love, protect and provide for them regardless of their outward appearance. To bless them with the “extras” of beauty, they had to become actively involved – submitting to the torturous highlighting and waxing – but my loving covenant to them as a parent doesn’t depend on anything they do or don’t do. It’s a bit of a stretch, but try to follow my logic as I apply it to God’s blessing and covenant with Noah…

Gen. 9:1 – “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.’”
  • The first word of God’s blessing was a directive, a command. Sometimes God’s direction – which requires work on our part – is the best blessing He can give us!

Gen. 9:2-4 – “The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.”

  • If I’m a Debbie-Downer, I’m going to look at this blessing and say, “Bummer! The animals are afraid of me now, and I have to eat their flesh? Ick!” But remember human relationship to Creation was vastly different BEFORE the flood. From these verses, we realize that God was protecting humankind by making animals afraid of us, and even though the act of killing an animal for food was distasteful, it foretold a time when crops would not be sufficient to sustain life. Blessings…with a hard message for the future.

Gen. 9:5-7 – “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

  • God blesses retribution – which implies Noah’s descendants will fall into the same depravity he’s just seen destroyed on the earth. But God repeats his original command to Noah, reminding him not to get focused on the negative. He is responsible only to be faithful in what God has called him to do.

Gen. 9:8-11 – “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you--the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you--every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’”

  • God established His covenant with ALL living creatures, human and animals, and He didn’t ask them to respond or participate. He simply promised them He would never again destroy the earth by flood. For the blessings, He asked for participation. For the covenant, He simply made His promise.

Gen. 9:12-17 – “And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’ So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.’”

  • The Lord not only asks us to set special celebrations and occasions to remember His faithfulness. He followed His own advice and set a remembrance for Himself. Think of the rainbow as God’s post-it note to Himself, not because He might forget, but because He wants to recall the tender emotion and relationship born out of the moment Noah and his little family stepped off that ark.

Lord, Your desire to bless and covenant with Your people astounds me. Why? Why do You stretch us with blessings You know we’ll cry and wail about at first and then dash away with happily later – sometimes forgetting to thank You? Thank You for Your covenant promise that requires nothing from me but breath. Sometimes breath seems all I have, but I breathe…amen.

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