Now this is one story I have been so eager to tell….
Please get under your duvet dim the lights and enjoy….
At a time long ago lived a man who this story is not about. He was a handsome, affluent man who was known all through the town that he lived in. In today’s world, you may compare him with your typical successful business man- he was great at identifying opportunities and seizing them, he had enough to cater for an entire community and so much more, he really was the kind of guy that you and I sometimes dream to be like someday.
Beyond being so successful, he was a man with some good values, an amazing family man who knew just how to love yet instill the right values in his children. He daily remembered to say a word for every single person that was dear to his heart; His beloved sister who he had not seen since she left their father’s home to be married to the son of the wealthiest man in the country, his wife whose love steered him on daily and whose wisdom kept the world from seeing the man he really was inside, his first daughter who was every inch the lady he knew she would become and his younger daughter- oh how he loved her!
Try as he did to show equal love to both his daughters, his younger just had a special place in his heart. Ironically, he had anticipated the birth of his older daughter much more than he did his younger but the moment he walked in to see her right after she was born, his older daughter holding fast to his left thumb, he knew this one was special. Her eyes reminded him of his sister’s eyes- there was raw beauty behind them- pure, unadulterated magnificence in one tiny girl. In that moment, he unknowingly removed his thumb from the grip of his older and cradled his new baby.
Everything changed for her in that moment. Her being the older girl. The one this story is really about. “Scurry along darling” he said as he turned his back to her and focused on his princess. That was the first of many of such events that defined the rest of her life. She attempted to prove that she was worthy of the same love and attention that her sister got by being the best daughter anyone could ever have- she was great with the house chores, an amazing cook too- no one made better yam pottage than she did not even her mother, she had a beautiful heart and above all she had virtue. Why did she have to go through so much scorn? No one understood the meaning of invisible like she did- and all it required to die whilst alive was to have her sister tumble in. Which happened almost every moment of her life except the few times she was able to escape to the mountains to weep to God.
But you see she had come to the realization that God was partial just like everyone. He never heard her. If he did, he never answered her. Not even once. On the eve of her birthday she walked up the mountains to ask him for something different. She no longer wanted her father or mother to look at her like she was there, or to be as good as her sister was with their father’s trade all she wanted was one man that would love her just the way she was- that was her only escape from the ridicule her life had been. Just one person that would love her… that would look at her… that would know her nothing more. That night as she descended from the mountains, there seemed to be a party in the house. “Where have you been” her mother asked looking through her “your father has a guest- I haven’t started the pottage yet put that together quickly dear”. Her sister, was back from their father’s business and her voice could be heard as she discussed business with her father and their guest. As she set the yam pottage on the table in front of the strikingly fine man she thought maybe God answered this one prayer. He was everything she had dreamt of and nothing like the men her sister had eyes for. Her heart was drawn to him in that instant. With much care, she knelt in front of him as she served him- their eyes locked… but it only lasted a few seconds. God was partial. Still.
As though it was not enough that her life seemed endlessly hopeless, her sister waltzed in that night her eyes sparkling with delight.
“You wouldn’t believe that man asked me to marry him and I said yes”
“But you do not know him and he is not your type… do you even know his name?”
“I know… its weird right??? There is just something about him… He is different… I like him”
“You will make a beautiful bride dear… you will”
“In 7 years I will…. He is working for Papa for 7 years just for me” she beamed
7 very short years in the eyes of her sister and her husband to be but 7 excruciating years for her. 7 years that reminded her of how miserable her life was. 7 years of having to constantly work on being happy for her sister. 7 years of longing for her own prayers to be answered. 7 years of hearing nothing but silence from this God! At the end of those 7 years, she had accepted her fate to remain a maiden in her father’s house, she had made peace with God- if he even was. She was at peace with her fate until her father walked up to her as she was preparing her sister’s parting things a night before her wedding.
“I sat there thinking of giving your sister away tomorrow and it dawned on me that I have two of you… two of you! I know I have not loved you enough… I am so ashamed of myself… Those years passed by so fast I did not see how fast you have grown, how far from me you have become- how can I make it up to you? How can I mend your heart my love?”
She did not realize when she broke down in tears overwhelmed at the feeling of being seen finally. She was more overwhelmed when her father announced his plan to give her away rather than her sister. “Please let me right all the wrongs dear… plus it is tradition it is legal”. She pulled away from him abruptly how can he ask her to do such a thing- to be married under a dark veil of deception to a man who had eyes only for her sister. Why would he want to muddle her already murky life, her sister would never forgive her!
But it happened just as it did in her worst nightmare; her father had the final say in everything that concerned her. She was married off under a cloak of deception, her heart torn into pieces, her confusion inexplicable, her eyes filled with tears, her soul empty. Worse, when her husband came to be with her he called her a name that was not hers. God is not fair she cried from within her soul. That morning as the first light hit the room, her husband stared at her with shock, then rage and finally hatred that made her quiver.
He couldn’t stand to be near her. “How could you do this” he yelled as he stormed out of the room. His father-in-law stood outside prepared for the outburst. After what seemed to be a short heated conversation he agreed to endure working with his father-in-law for another 7 years just to be with the woman he loved. He agreed to remain with the woman in his house for the customary 7 days but on the 8th day, he was to be tied to his true love.
“Traitor” became her new name. Her new shame.
Her struggle for relevance, for identity, for love continued even though she had done nothing to deserve the lemons life threw at her. Finally God smiled on her and she birthed her first child- she assumed his birth would change her shame but he did not, the second came and then the third… yet nothing changed her deplorable situation. Her husband was only her husband because he had no choice. Her sister still saw her as the enemy. Her father only had eyes for his business and God… God was still silent.
Silent until a few moments before she birthed her 4th son when he whispered softly in her heart-
“My plans for you are good Leah… trust me”
She denied him first, then she wrestled with him “How could you be so unfair? How?”
“If only you can see the view from up here… you would know that my ways are not your ways… my thoughts are not your thoughts… Please trust me”
“How? I am not sure I even know you”
“I’m around you, I’m within you, I have a plan for you… give me yourself… surrender and let me be God to you”
After that encounter with God, the moment came for her to have the child inside of her. She sensed that all of her life was geared towards the actualization of this one purpose- to birth this child. Yet even though she could not see the complete picture, she chose to trust God like he asked her to so she named this child a name different from those of the first three, she gave him a name that did not focus on her scorn, her affliction or her pain. For the first time in her life she allowed God use her just as she was.
Judah- she smiled at him meaning Now I will praise the Lord.
Little did she know that in that moment of absolute surrender to God and his will she became a part of the world’s salvation story.
While it may seem that this story should end here, in this good place, I love how Leah is so human like you and I. How even though she had an encounter with God she still struggled with letting go of all of herself and allowing God take absolute control. I know that because even after she had Judah, even after the time she said to God “you know what take this life of mine”, she still went back to the same struggles of identity and relevance. But I can sense that her end was good ; I sense that because Jacob buried her in the same place Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah were buried. I can assume that before she died, Jacob made peace with her and saw her as the beautiful woman she was inside. It is intriguing that on his death bed he asked to be laid in that same place that she lay.
Beside the woman whose invisible life fulfilled the purpose for both their existence.
Photo Credit: Google Images, Soulfullheartblog