A wise sage was once asked how she defines a family. Through a slight smile, she sighed aloud and said, “Love. Love that functions as the binding which keeps all parts together.” After a few moments of silence, she once more sighed, saying, “Dysfunction. Dysfunction is the reality of intertwined lives learning to receive and share love.” After a few more moments of silence, a smile returned and sage spoke for the last time, “Family is the reality living between the fullness of love and the fullness of dysfunction. At times, one may pull stronger than the other. Yet in the end, family is the indistinguishable name given to dysfunctional love.”
Perhaps one of the examples of dysfunctional love is the story of Jacob and the emergence of his prized son, Joseph. After being duped into marrying Leah, he finally has the opportunity to marry his true love, Rachel (her younger sister). Rachel carries on the storyline of a barren women desperately desiring a child of her own. Between the sisters are jealousy, envy, sharing their husband with their servants and the quintessential answer to prayer—a child given to the barren woman.
After ten sons and a daughter are born to Jacob, through three different women, we read Rachel’s moment of God’s miracle work. Genesis 30:22-24 says,
Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” She named him Joseph.
Joseph literally means ‘God will add to; multiply.’ Rachel grants this name in the hope of more children from her womb (one more comes, Benjamin but dies in childbirth.) It is Joseph who takes center stage for the people of God as he is both favored and despised at the same time. Through his story, we will once more see the pull of families between the fullness of love and dysfunction.