By Steven Norris

     They say that all press is good press, but I am convinced that Esau really needed to get himself an agent. There are some real villains in the Bible (Judas, Pharaoh, Herod, and Nebuchadnezzar come to mind), but Esau? One commentator I read referred to him as the “redheaded Yeti of the Old Testament” for the way he sold his birthright for a bowl of Lentil stew and was duped out of his father’s blessing by his younger brother Jacob’s conniving.

     However, no one seems to talk about Esau’s growth and transformation. On the heels of Jacob’s trickery, Esau is so angry that he is plotting homicide against his own flesh and blood. Jacob is forced to flee for his life. When he returns, he is certain that Esau is going to follow through on those threats. Instead, he finds that Esau is ready to welcome him home and (by implication) offer him forgiveness.

     It got me to wondering: what happened inside Esau’s heart and soul that led to that dramatic change? What kind of inner work did Esau do in the intervening years that prevented him from being consumed by rage and thoughts of revenge? What lessons might we learn?

     Maybe Esau’s growth had something to do with the fact that he stayed put and didnt run away. A first step in healing is not running away from your problems. While Jacob fled to his Uncle Laban’s house, Esau stayed put and had to deal with the fallout that resulted from both brothers’ poor decisions.

     Maybe Esau had to forgive himself first. Throughout the story, he certainly wrestled his own demons and had to face his own complicity. He did sell his birthright, after all. Offering forgiveness to others often begins by offering to forgive ourselves. Maybe Esau took ownership of his own role and that led him to be able to offer Jacob the same forgiveness he found for himself.

     Maybe he sought out a therapist — someone to talk to and give some perspective. (I know, I’m taking some creative license here.) Healing comes when we are willing to process through and learn from our past so that we don’t repeat it. A good therapist can offer us a safe and unbiased space to process our experiences and learn from them. Having a therapist doesn’t demonstrate a lack of faith, but a quest for maturity.

     Maybe Esau learned the truth about bitterness from the Twelve Step program. One slogan says, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.” Forgiveness may very well be more about the forgiver than the forgiven. When we hold on to bitterness, it often consumes us while the other person goes on with life unaware of the pain that they have caused.

     Whatever happened in those intervening years, Esau emerges a different man at the end of the story. My hope is that he experienced the transforming power of God’s grace. Maybe you and I could learn a thing or two from that redheaded Yeti as well.