Seth Asks Questions
Cain had to go far from the Lord and live in the Land of Wandering, which is east of Eden. . . . Adam and his wife had another son. They named him Seth, because they said, “God has given us a son to take the place of Abel, who was killed by his brother Cain.”
Genesis 4:16, 25, CEV
Have you ever stopped to consider the hard fact that the very first family told about in the Bible was a dysfunctional family?
Does this say something to you about the wretched state of our sinful human race?
As a youngster, Seth may not have realized at first that he was living in a dysfunctional family. He was born when his parents were about to be past the age of childbearing. When such a child has siblings who are much older (as I did), some people call that youngest child “an afterthought,” or “the caboose on the family train.”
Did Seth know that he was not an only child? Did he know the tragic story of his two older brothers? The Bible gives us no hint as to whether he knew this or not.
When I was a child, my older brother and older sisters knew what had happened to my grandfather. So did my parents, but none of them ever told me. My widowed grandmother found an eager little listener for her many stories about my grandfather’s life, . . . but she never once mentioned his death. I had to grow quite a bit older before I found out that my poor grandfather, like a good many other Americans of his era, felt that he had ruined his own life and the lives of others when the stock market crashed during the Great Depression. As a result, he died by his own hand.
Many families have dark secrets. Many children grow up not knowing the whole story. Was Seth one of those children? The following poetic meditation assumes that he was.
When I was little, my father and mother
never once told me that I had a brother.
Two brothers, actually, named Cain and Abel –
never once mentioned when we sat at table.
Hard-working people, my father and mother –
no one to help them, no strong older brother.
Sometimes I’d glimpse, in their work-weary faces,
memories . . . of what? Other sons? Other places?
They were so old, it seemed I should be older.
That was what prompted me, once I grew bolder:
“Mother,” I asked, “was there never another?
“All those long years, did I once have a brother?”
“Hush, now!” she cautioned me. “Don’t let your father
hear you ask questions, Seth. Don’t be a bother!”
That, of course, caused me to grow more suspicious.
Quietly I sought for a time more auspicious. . . .
Finally I found out – and wished I had waited.
How could a brother by brother be hated?
One lay in blood, there struck down by the other.
One wandered far off . . . and yet he’s my brother.
Have mercy, O Father God, on all members of fractured and dysfunctional families today. May they find their wholeness in our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.
Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas