It was a surreal moment. A blend of incredulity, shame, and awe swept over me. The incriminating items were certainly mine. Any attempt to hide my ownership would’ve been like an identical twin trying to deny his relation to his brother. But the fact that it was Tamar holding the signet, cord, and staff was simultaneously shocking and captivating. I felt immense shame, and at the same time I had an irresistible inclination to commend Tamar for her shrewdness. It was amidst this concoction of emotion I uttered the admission, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her my son Shelah.”
The historical records rightly suggest that this was the turning point of my life. A one hundred and eighty degree change resulted from the impact of Tamar’s shrewdness and exposure of my evil. I had always carried a burden of guilt for the callous scheme I had conducted against my half brother; and I daily lugged a load of self-loathing all through my sojourn in Canaan. I now found myself repulsed by my past choices and life formulas, and also repulsed by my commitment to hide and harbor hatred of myself with some dim and deceitful hope of achieving atonement through penance.
The Maker confirmed that mercy was in fact the way forward (as opposed to what “makes sense”) in that He put twins in Tamar’s womb, and when the time of her labor came one of the boys put out a hand first (to which the midwife tied a scarlet thread); but then Zerah (the firstborn) drew back his hand and his brother (Perez) was permitted to go first. I remember our grandfather telling us stories of our first parents, and how they too had made wicked and treasonous choices, and the Maker’s response (though full of consequences) was not a declaration of condemnation, but rather a commendation to fix our eyes on the promise of a Firstborn Son who would come and shrewdly smash the head of evil and save us in accordance with His lavish mercy. This was the lesson – sacramentally bestowed upon me – in the arrival of my precious sons; though my contribution to their conception was evil, God made it into mercy. This is the merciful message of our Maker – the older shall commit Himself to serving the younger.