These two women, Rachel and Leah, what a life they lead. I know I can be so much like either of these two women. They each have different struggles yet so many similarities. Rachel has the love of her husband yet struggles to bear children. Leah is not loved by her husband yet has many sons.
Each of these women battle idols in their lives. I battle the same idols that these to did in their lives. It was a struggle between keeping God as where hope and confidence comes from instead of the love of a husband or the number of children delivered.
Before I get into this I want to be sure you understand that a loveless marriage is a hard place to be and when a baby is so desired yet not happening is also so difficult. My desire is to not heap guilt on anyone who is in a loveless marriage and yearns for one filled with love. I also do not want to push anyone into a deeper despair over not having children. I want us to see that our hope is in something much bigger than a marriage or children. I want us to see that our hope and confidence and all rightness comes from Christ and all he has done for us. Our hope, confidence, and all rightness does not come from the things we do or the things around us.
I pray my words will bring hope to the woman who longs for a baby and the one who is so overwhelmed with the needs of her children she is without hope. I pray that my words will bring hope to the woman who has love of her husband and the woman who walks into a cold home.
Each of them struggled with placing their confidence and hope in small things to the grave yet these are the women God used to bring about the 12 tribes of Israel. Leah is the woman who bore Judah, the direct lineage Jesus came from. This is their story yet I can see myself in their lives and the beautiful part is that God asserts himself as God in their lives just as he does in ours.
Jacob, the husband of Rachel and Leah, is the guy who stole his brothers birthright. His mother helped him out. They covered Jacob in hair to look and smell more like his brother, Esau, and sent him into a tent with is father. His father had failing eyes and health. When Esau discovers the blessing has been given to his younger brother he is a little ticked. Esau is more than a little ticked. He starts to plan a way to kill his brother.
Jacob leaves his home to flee from his brother and to find himself a wife. He travels to the home of his uncle Laban (mother’s brother). Before he arrives at the home he stops and chats with the shepherds. While he is chatting, he spots Rachel. This is where it turns into something you might see in a romantic movie (apart from the face they are cousins).
“While he is still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his others brother Jacob came near and rolled the stone form the wells mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman and tat he was Rebekah’s son and she ran and told her father.”
Jacob instantly loves Rachel and is willing to work 7 years so she can be his wife. Her father agrees to this but then pulls a fast one at the wedding. I’m not exactly sure how Jacob married the wrong sister but he does. In the morning he realizes what happens and Laban says he can work another 7 years and can have Rachel as his wife too. Essentially what Laban has done is sold his daughters for the labor of Jacob. The women have become his wages. (Not the most upstanding example of a father)
To recap…Jacob worked 7 years and was given the wrong wife. He spends the wedding week with her. Laban gives Jacob his other daughter Rachel (the one that Jacob loves) to Jacob and then must work off the 7 year debt.
Things only get more interesting from here on out. These two women have a baby making competition. The boys are given names that reflect the thoughts and emotions of the mothers. While I have not said these exact phrases the sentiment has been the same for me when my kids or husband become the things my heart clings to.
Reuben is the first born. Leah’s response to him is “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”
My thoughts: If we are done having kids what will my purpose be. The way my husband looks at me when we have a baby is beyond words.
Simeon “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated he has given me this son also.”
My words: I can prove to the world around me how awesome I am if I just keep having kids.
Levi “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons”
My words: I have four kids so I am really an awesome mom. Even if I lose my temper and can’t keep my poop in a group I have more kids than a lot of other moms. Hopefully people around me look at me and say wow she is really killing this motherhood thing.
Judah “This time I will praise the Lord.”
My Words: I am actually enjoying motherhood. Not because I have to do it all right but because it is a gift God has given me to do. I am loved by my God and I get to love on these kids.
Then Leah stopped bearing (for a time)
Rachel is so upset she tells her husband “Give me children or I shall die” And no doubt that it would have been heartbreaking for Rachel to watch her sister have children one after the other.
Rachel is desperate for a child. She tells her husband to sleep with her servant so she can have children that are attributed to her. This woman already has the love of her husband, yet she still wants to earn it through childbearing. These are the children Bilhah delivers:
Dan “God has judged me and has also heard my voice and given me a son”
Naphtali “With mighty wrestling I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed”
Leah sees the children that have come about through a servant and does the same with her servant Zilpah. These are the children Zilpah delivers:
Gad “Good fortune has come”
Asher “Happy am I! For women have called me happy”
Rachel exchanges her night with her husband for some mandrakes (a fruit known to increase fertility) and Leah has two boys:
Issachar “God has given me my wages because I have given my servant to my husband”
Zebulun “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will honor me because I bore him six sons”
Rachel finally has a son of her own not from a servant woman:
Joseph “God has taken away my reproach”
As soon as she has this child she says “May the Lord add to me another son. Eventually she does have another son. His name is Benjamin.
It is easy to see the grief and struggle these women have. Can we see ourselves in it too? I can see myself in Leah in so many ways. I have the love of my husband, yet I want to prove myself worthy in some distorted way. I want to prove myself worthy of the love of my husband and the love of my God. My husband is faithful and loving despite me being a butt head that is how our marriage has prevailed. My God is faithful and loving despite be being a butt head that is why my faith has prevailed.
I have not battled infertility like I know so many around me have. That is the reason I did not comment on Rachel’s response. I can speculate what that feels like but I do not understand the depth of a struggle with infertility. I didn’t feel I could do it justice. If you have perhaps you can understand Rachel’s heart better than I can and you can see yourself in her words.
The things we don’t have can become idols in our lives. What I know more acutely is the things we do have can become the things our hearts and minds confide in. My kids can become the thing I look to for my all right-ness. My kids can become the thing I look to know that everything is going to be okay. How they are doing emotionally, academically, physically, and in so many ways can gauge how well I believe I am doing. I can tell you with four kids when that is where your hope and peace come from life is a roller coaster and it is impossible to find peace and balance.
The things we do have can also become idols in our lives. Kids are a great big gift from God there is do doubt about that. Kids are a gift but not the giver of good things.
The hope Rachel and Leah have is the same hope we have. The struggle of where to place our confidence can be the same too.
Our hope does not come from being loved by our husband. Our hope does not come from our children. Or hope comes from the Lord.