Saturday, February 8, 2014
Uncle Abraham by Linden Malki
Father Abraham had many sons--and Uncle Abraham had many nephews,and nieces, and grand-nephews and grand-nieces--
Uncles and aunts and cousins are special relationships, especially in the Middle East.
Even today, cousins, especially on the father's side, are considered the best spouses. (There are two cousin marriages among my immediate inlaws--one has been very successful, and the other wasn't.)
In Arabic, the common word for "father-in-law" is the word for "uncle." I have a first cousin who was a missionary doctor in Jordan, under the Southern Baptist regional headquarters in Lebanon. The summer I spent there, I was usually introduced as "Bint Amo Dr. Lovegren"--the daughter of his father's brother, and after my father passed away, he was considered my guardian until I married--and his wife was one of the official witness to my marriage. Here in the US, my uncle and aunt became surrogate grandparents for my kids, and not only did I wind up living in the same town as their daughter, a niece and nephew of mine have lived near some of this uncles' grandchildren, in widely separated places.
Abraham knew that he could count on his nephew Bethuel to welcome his servant and help find an appropriate wife for Isaac; and Rebekah knew that her brother Laban would welcome Jacob.
I knew, growing up, that aunts and uncles were special. One aunt, who only had boys, several times sent me a red purse for Christmas, saying that every little girl should have a red purse. One of the special things about cousins is that you always have something to talk about--we've had different experiences of the same family, and this gives us a wider perspective. I've often learned things from my aunts and uncles that I might not have learned anyplace else. Families--even good families--are not perfect, and we can also learn what doesn't work well from inside the family.
My dad and my missionary uncle were the two oldest in their family, and they were always close. They also had two younger brothers who were in business together, and when one passed away fairly young, the other could not work with his nephews. The rest of the family were affected by the sadness of his totally avoiding them--which affected the rest of us as well. I thank God not only for my grandparents, parents, kids, and grandkids but also for the whole web of aunts and uncles and cousins that have enriched my life in so many ways. One of the most special was several years ago, when our Easter message at Calvary/Northpoint was the Seven Last Words of Jesus, given by seven preachers (including me as an honorary preacher-for-a-day). The Sunday before, during a communion service, it hit me that my grandfather, father, and uncle would have been especially pleased to see my cousin Mark Lambert and I sharing a pulpit on this special day.