Sketched III, Day 1
Rachel was beautiful, with dancing dark eyes, a beguiling smile and willowy figure. She would bring a handsome bride-price. I lived in her shadow—forgettable, homely.
Papa joked that he’d have to pay someone to take me!
One afternoon, Rachel burst in breathlessly chattering to Papa about a traveler from Gilead. He was waiting at the well. A distant relative; his name was Jacob. Jacob’s fascination with Rachel was obvious from the beginning. His eyes softly glowed when he looked at her; a boyish smile played at his mouth. She was aflutter, blushing under his admiring gaze. Jacob asked to marry her and Papa gave his consent.
It was common knowledge that older daughters married first, but it wasn’t mentioned. Rules are often altered for favored beauties. Besides, who would want me? Jacob’s intoxication with Rachel fanned a hopeful spark within me. Perhaps someone would gaze upon me with softly glowing eyes and disarming smile. My contributions would be valued; I would be valued. Seven years passed as Jacob worked hard for Rachel; yet, no one came for me.
The party started early the day of the wedding. Abundant food, liquor, and dancing girls fueled the loud laughter that grew increasingly raucous and vulgar. In late afternoon, Papa came to see me. He was drunk, standing uncomfortably close as he unfolded his plan. I would don the bridal costume; the veils would hide my ugly face. Jacob would marry me tonight; he could marry Rachel later. Customs would be honored, he would be rid of his ugly daughter and Jacob would be none the wiser until it was too late. Papa laughed loudly at his own cleverness, his breath heavy with liquor. He turned to leave, landing a sound smack on my backside, laughing as I bristled. Hot tears sprang to my eyes; there was no time to cry. Servant girls appeared with armloads of bridal garb. The air was heavy with silence; they helped me bathe and brushed my hair. Dousing me in perfume, they bundled me into the bridal costume and carefully pinned the thick veils in place. I sat waiting.
Treachery, trickery; it has always been Papa’s way, but this was low.
Humiliated, trapped—I was a pawn in Papa’s game.
As I sat waiting in bridal attire, between the perfume and the heavy garb, I grew nauseous and sweaty. Papa’s degrading words rang in my head; I stifled the sobs that threatened and waited.
An hour later Papa came for me and the ceremony was performed.
At its end, I was Jacob’s wife and he would be rightly furious.
However, he didn’t know I wasn’t Rachel.
So, for tonight, I was his beloved, beautiful bride.
If only for tonight, I would feel what it was like to be loved.
In the gray light of pre-dawn, I awoke. Jacob’s arm slid over me, pulling me to him. Sinking into his embrace, I drank deeply of the remaining moments of this delicious delusion that I was loved. He stirred, nuzzling the soft curve of my neck. Brushing my hair from my face, he gasped and bolted upright! Clutching the bedclothes, questions sputtered.
Where was Rachel? Did we?
My tears and apologies flowed. Cursing Papa, he dressed and was gone.
Thoroughly humiliated, I buried myself in the bedclothes and wept. Would I always be unloved?
An ugly showdown transpired between Jacob and Papa that day; Jacob married Rachel within a week.
I was nonexistent, insignificant, and unwanted.
Soon I had a wonderful secret. Rachel held his heart, but I carried his baby. The look on Rachel’s face was priceless! Thus, began the rivalry that marked our lives as sisters, vying for Jacob’s attention.
I delivered a strapping boy; I was immediately in love. I couldn’t stop kissing his head and his scrunched little face. To my surprise, Jacob came. Wonder sprang to his eyes as I handed him our son. Holding our baby awkwardly, a boyish smile played at his lips. Raising his eyes to mine, he smiled at me. It is a moment etched forever in my memory. Hope flickered. Could I dare hope for Jacob’s affection?
I named our son Rueben: “God has seen my affliction!” Surely, things would be different now; as mother of his firstborn, I would be honored.
The years that followed found me pregnant or nursing most of the time. With each pregnancy, Rachel grew increasingly pouty. I loved it! I adored my boys with their grubby faces and boisterous laughter. They were my only joy. Though I’d borne three sons, I remained invisible and forever pitted against Rachel in a game rigged against me.
Jacob’s God was Yahweh, He seemed to honor castoffs, so I turned my hope toward Him.
He had already favored me with three sons.
Though Jacob ignored me, Yahweh held me with tender affection, He became my solace.
Jacob’s love for Rachel became nearly irrelevant.
I was at peace, and when pregnant again, I named our son Judah meaning, “This time I will praise the Lord!”.
The jealousy that formerly ruled me, rose to master me again.
Not be outdone by Rachel, I thrust Zilpah into Jacob’s arms.
The weighty pressure of performance-driven attempts to receive love clouded the peace I’d only begun to learn from Yahweh.
Would I always be unloved?
Leah was mistreated, humiliated, disregarded and ignored.
Life is often brutal: we too know the sting of others’ contempt or cutting words. Scripture teaches that all life is valuable, overflowing with God’s tender compassion for the weak, oppressed and castoffs.
Note of God’s heart toward the unseen and unloved in these passages:
Psalm 9:9-10 Matthew 10:29-31 Isaiah 43:1-4 Matthew 25: 34-40 Psalm 103:8-14
Encountering hurt is inevitable, how we respond makes all the difference! Note what the writer does with his emotions in these verses as he models how we can handle our own feelings:
Lamentations 3:22-26 Philippians 4:6-9 Psalm 18:6-26 1 Peter 5:6-7 Psalm 69:1-3
For all of Leah’s story, see Genesis 27-30
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