Leah and Rachel

Have you ever attended a worship service out of obligation and – quite unexpectedly – received a message that you needed to hear?

Sunday morning, John and I decided to go to the 8:30 a.m. service at our church and make Emily responsible for rousing our children and getting all five to the Sunday school classes that would follow the early service. We parents were tired of wrangling and shushing children in the balcony during the 11 a.m. service. The weekly whispered complaints and rambunctious movements meant we were always distracted from focusing on the worship experience itself. But this morning, we adults had escaped our parental duties and found ourselves in a quiet chapel, able to attend to the scriptures, music, liturgy, and message.

The sermon looked at a story from the Bible in the book of Genesis about Jacob and his wives. Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel but been tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah, first. After seven more years of hard labor, he was permitted to marry Rachel too. The story was not unfamiliar to me. And there are a number of different messages that can be preached from these passages. But, this morning, our minister focused on Leah – the unloved, the rejected wife — who yet bore sons that helped fulfill the prophecy that God would create a great nation of God’s chosen people through Jacob. For Christians, it is important to note that it was through Leah’s son Judah and his descendants that Jesus was born.

Huh. Tears began to well up in my eyes. What was that about?

My mind drifted to these first few days of the new school year. Much to my surprise, I had learned that the son of my old boyfriend was attending the same school that K.J. would now be attending. I had loved that man with all my heart. It was a volatile relationship that lasted more than six years. But I put up with more than I should have because I could not imagine my life without him. In the end, he rejected me and chose a “Rachel” to be his wife. My heart was broken.

In time, with the help of therapists, family, and friends, I healed. I met John who – unlike Jacob with Leah – loved me unconditionally despite my scars. But when infertility thwarted our efforts to create a family, the old wounds almost destroyed our marriage. The message: “You are not good enough. You are unwanted and unlovable. You do not deserve to be happy or to be a mother…” played over and over in my head.

As you know, that was not the end of the story. John’s generous and loving spirit – along with therapists, family, and friends – reined me back in. And we began our journey to adopt a child. Moreover, just like Leah, we were blessed with a multitude of children.

I found myself thinking about unhappy Leah and her descendants. God did not change Jacob’s heart. God did not turn Leah into a wanted wife. But God did turn a lousy situation into something else splendid in its own way.

I thought about the many birth parents I have known who took their imperfect circumstances, their unplanned pregnancies, and were inspired to believe that good – the creation of a new family who would love and care for their child – could come from making an adoption plan.

In my own life, instead of giving birth and adding another branch to the “family tree,” I had been given saplings of different types of trees. God gave a forest of differently colored, differently fruited trees to the one who called herself “rejected.” Imagine that!

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