I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you . . . Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. – John 14:18, 27
Live long enough and you'll discover life can pitch a mean curve ball. Just when you think you know what the next one will look like, it slices past the radar gun at 110, and all you end up doing is batting air. Or worse.Serious illness. Financial ruin. Divorce. Any number of pitches can break toward us and send us diving for safety. But of the hardest pitches life might fire at us, rejection has to be right up there with the worst.
I understand rejection. I met it when my father left my mom for another woman. I was five at the time. He seldom bothered to visit my sister and me afterward. When I met briefly with him thirteen years later, I asked why he left his children.
Today, after fifty years swinging the bat, I still remember his answer: "Because I wanted to."
I'm sometimes surprised how good can come from that memory. My father's rejection helps me empathize with others who never knew love and acceptance from those closest to them.
If you remember the story (Genesis 29-30), Leah lived in the shadow of her younger sister's beauty. When Jacob visited the family, Rachel's beauty captured him. I suppose it's fair to say her beauty consumed him - so much so, he agreed to work her family's farm for seven years as payment to marry her. But on the eve of the seventh anniversary, Rachel's family pulled a classic bait and switch. When the new groom awakened the next morning, he found himself lying next to Leah. If Jacob still wanted Rachel, he'd have to work another seven years.
He did, but it's not difficult to imagine how Leah felt – unloved, unattractive, unwanted, knowing her family had to trick Jacob into her marriage bed.
Yet, the story grows more poignant. Scripture tells us: “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb . . . and (she) gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, ‘It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now’" (Genesis 29:31-32, NASB).
I can almost hear the wistful yearning in her voice, "Now my husband will love me."
Leah was not the first woman to hope, "If I have his child, he will love me." But that's not the way love works. It didn't work for Leah. It didn't work for my mom. It won't work for anyone.
Ever the optimist, though, Leah conceived again. And then again. "Now at last my husband will become attached to me," she said, "because I have borne him three sons."Yet even after six sons, it was Rachel who remained the light in Jacob's eyes. Leah hungered for her husband's embrace. She longed for his touch, a kind word and to know in the core of her being she was loved. Yet, Jacob was deaf to her heartache and blind to her sorrow.
God, however, knew it all – and that is the wonderful message of this story.I've read this chapter in Genesis dozens of times, but this time my eyes froze at the list of Leah's sons, and then refocused on two.
Levi and Judah.
Not only was Leah unaware that God was with her in Rachel's shadow, but she didn't know eternity would measure life and death through her offspring – not Rachel's.
Levi and Judah: ancestors of Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Ezra, Ezekiel, Zechariah. All of
Including Jesus the Messiah.The apostle Paul tells us the things written in Scripture are for our benefit, that through the encouragement of God's word we might have hope (Romans 15:4). And that's what Leah's story is all about – great, ineffable hope. It's about God in our shadows, about God who never rejects us and who can turn the rejection of others into something of eternal value for a world longing to be touched by God's love.
"For I know the plans that I have for you," God tells us through Jeremiah - another of Leah's descendants, "plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB).
us the things written in Scripture are for our benefit, and that through the
encouragement of God's word we can have hope (Romans 15:4). That's what Leah's
story is all about – great, ineffable hope. It’s about God in our shadows,
about God who loves us, and who knows our deepest hurts. St. Paul
And it’s the story of how God can turn the rejection of others into something of immeasurable value for those of us yearning to be touched by God's love.