I love the account of Jacob and his wives in the Bible. Man. If you ever want a story of love, intrigue, and more drama than General Hospital, open up your Bible, turn to Genesis and start reading about Jacob, his wives, and his sons. It has it all! Lies, murder, jealousy, bitterness, scorned women. Man.
In case you’re not familiar with it, I’m going to break down just part of it. It starts off with Jacob on teh run from his brother. You see, Jacob tricked his brother out of something major in their family and his brother was literally going to kill him. So Jacob hikes up his toga and after getting a kiss on the forehead from his mommy (and the dude was well into adulthood) he runs away to visit his uncle. It’s there he meets his true love/cousin, Rachel. She’s described in scripture as beautiful and just a knock out. She would have been the Beyonce of Jacob’s era. He is just enamored with her and goes up to his uncle/future father in law (x2 – what? Stay tuned…) and asks what can he do to make this woman his bride.
And before you get weirded out by the cousin thing, just know that was the culture of the day. We can’t view this through Western 2013 eyes. We have to take it for the time in which they lived.
Laban, the Uncle/FIL, tells Jacob he can have his daughter (Rach) if he just works in the fields for 7 years taking care of Laban’s sheep. Jacob readily agrees, because remember Rachel = gorgeous, and the Bible says that to Jacob seven years felt like a day because of his undying love for this woman.
So then the wedding happens and Jacob’s all excited because he gets married to the love of his life, OR SO HE THINKS! The morning after his wedding, he wakes up in his honeymoon tent and there beside him is LEAH the dim-eyed, ugly older sister who he wanted nothing to do with! He panics and runs to Laban, screaming, “What have you done to me?!” (Look it up, Genesis 29:25)
This is where it gets tricky. Out of nowhere, Laban brings up that there’s this custom in his land that the younger sister (Rachel) could never marry before the older (Leah) and that oops, he just hadn’t told Jacob that! But if Jacob wanted to, he could marry Rachel too… only he had to work seven more years.
That Laban. Violated 1800 labor laws right there.
Well Jacob agreed to it, because remember, Rachel = THE most beautiful woman in the history of the universe at that time (to Jacob), but … there’s a little verse in there that a lot of people don’t stop to think about.
It tells us in scripture, Genesis 29:28, that it wasn’t until Leah’s bridal week was completed that Jacob married Rachel.
You see, according to Jewish customs, the bride and groom were hidden away for a week, alone just to get to know each other.
I sit here and wonder what that week was like. Did they talk? Did she spend the week trying to draw out conversation out of him? How often did she apologize for her father or sympathize with his anger? Did she bring up her sister? Did he mention Rachel’s name? Did he count down the minutes until he could be reunited with the one he worked so hard for?
Did Leah ever look at her husband, her groom, her future and realize that he would never look at her the way he looked at her sister?
Did she feel trapped?
I know myself, if I were Leah, I would have spent the entire time desperately trying to learn Jacob’s favorite stews. I would have asked him stories about his mother, because I would have remembered hearing him tell Rachel about her. I would have bent over backwards apologizing and reaching out to him.
And when he flinched from my hands, it would have felt like a hot iron, stinging every inch of my skin and making me curl up so deeply inside myself I could no longer see the sky.
She was Leah.
She was never his first choice and boy, didn’t Jacob seem to go out of his way to remind her of that?
I look at their relationship and I see a relationship of convenience. Rachel couldn’t bear children. Leah could. Jacob wanted an heir, needed an heir to fulfill prophecy and Leah was just … there.
Rachel was his love.
Leah was his duty.
For the most part, I’m generally a secure person. I typically don’t worry about what people think of me and I’m fine when it comes to my looks and intellect, all that jazz. I am who God made me and all the things you learn growing up in church.
However, one thing sends me scrambling to be important. One thing sends me acting like a loon and doing things I never would do normally and that’s feeling like I’m someone’s second choice.
It was the end of sixth grade and we were signing up for locker partners. At my junior high, they let you pick your locker partner for the following year. We were a small school, but had huge lockers. You could sit inside of them with your Lisa Frank trapper keeper and still have room to stop and do Hammer Time.
Not that I’m speaking from experience.
While I had lots of friends in junior high, I never had that one friend. That best friend. That kindred spirit that you read about in Anne of Green Gables novels. It wasn’t until high school that I fell into a group and got into a grove and finally felt like I mattered to someone. But in middle school I drifted a lot.
It’s an awkward age of acne and clothes never quite fitting right. You feel so grown up but know that you’re not. You desperately want know who you are but all the while have no idea how to figure that out.
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.
For a young girl, the most important thing on her mind is making sure that the other girls think you matter. Really, in junior high, boys are great and everything, but it’s the other girls, the friends and the pretty and popular that matter. You want them to like you or even more, you want them to want to be you.
Girl life is very complicated.
It’s so wonderful that it stops in adulthood.
It will stop one day, right?
Anyway, as we were signing up for lockers, I went around to all of my friends, but one by one I was sadly told that they already had their locker partner picked out. If only I had gotten there minutes sooner! One by one, my prospects began to look slim.
And I started to feel desperate.
I watched my classmates and friends head into the office and sign up for the following year. I began to feel like the third flamingo, frantically wanting to board Noah’s ark.
But I couldn’t find anyone.
Then, just as I was about to sign up alone and hope for a fun new girl to be paired with me the next year, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and there she stood: Carrie.
I hated Carrie. I’m sorry to say that, but I did.
For one, she was bossy and not in the cute and adorable kind of way. No. She was the bossy in the I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m big, you’re little kind of way.
And two, she was a tattle tale, homework over-achiever. You know the type. She would be the one begging for pop quizzes and asking the teacher for homework over the weekend while the rest of us mumbled, “shut up, Carrie,” under our breaths.
With all the love of Jesus, of course.
Carrie and I were in a lot of the same advanced classes and our paths crossed far too many times for my liking.
There was no lost love on my part.
“I don’t know what the extra credit was, Carrie. I’m sorry.” I turned back around and started to head to the office, hoping that no one saw me talk to her.
“Want to be locker partners next year?”
I skidded to a stop and slowly, oh so slowly, turned back around. “What did you say?”
“Do you want to be locker partners next year?” She was speaking to me like I was a foreign exchange student and did not know the King’s English.
I knew the King’s English.
“Me. You want to be locker partners with me?”
Carrie nodded and pushed her thick glasses up her nose before tucking home cut, pinking shear bob behind hear ear. “That’s what I said.”
“What about Kim?”
Kim was Carrie’s only friend. They were basically inseparable. Kim was the only one who could stand Carrie. We all had theories on it. Some thought Kim might be hard of hearing or an oldest child who was used to dealing with annoying siblings. Kim was much more tolerable than Carrie and would even tell Carrie to hush when she asked for homework.
Everyone needs a Kim in their life.
“Moving.” Her eyes shifted and she awkwardly adjusted her hand-me-down from her brother’s jeans. “So…”
“You probably have one. Right. Sorry.”
She started to walk away and I had to think fast. What would be worse, being a locker partner with Carrie for an entire year or having everyone know that no one picked you because you’re with a new kid?
“That sounds great, Carrie!” I could be very enthusiastic when backed into a corner.
She stopped and looked back at me. “Really?”
I nodded and bounced on the tips of my toes. “Mmhmm! I was just going to ask you the same thing!”
“Really? Wow! I didn’t think you even liked me.”
“What, no, of course I do!” I told my new locker partner. “Let’s go sign up.”
I wish I could say that the next year, Carrie and I learned to solve our differences and I finally saw that she was just a lonely, misunderstood girl who was often forgotten at home by her over-bearing mother, but I didn’t. I didn’t realize that until much later on in life when it was too late and our paths would never cross again.
Carrie and I had something in common though. Neither of us were each others first choice. And it hurt. Not that Carrie and I were destined to be one shared secret away from a great friendship, but we both were two girls, lost and alone, wanting someone to notice them.
Maybe that was Carrie’s problem all along.
Maybe it was all of ours.
Life can be so cruel and for people like Leah, for people like Carrie and for me at times, being a second choice is never easy. We all want someone in our corner, someone picking us first.
Thankfully, someone did.
Before the foundations of the world, Jesus chose me.
He chose me knowing all my mean remarks about Carrie and all the times later on in life that I’ve not showed love and held back mercy and felt like I had a right to be angry at someone.
He loved me while I was still a filthy rotten sinner. Romans 5:8 tells me that.
He knew all my secrets and still loved me. I was never God’s second choice. I was never the alternate plan. If we were signing up for locker partner’s, God would have asked me to be His.
And He would ask you too.
God chose Leah as well.
While Leah may not have realized it at the time, God had a special plan for her. From her, the line of Christ was formed: Judah.
You see, Rachel wound up having issues with infertility and while she did bear two sons, Leah had many children and one of them’s name was Judah. Judah means “And now I will praise the Lord.”
Funny, the woman who was always second place names her youngest son praise and later, many years later, from that son’s line, Jesus Christ would enter this world from the tribe of Judah to be the payment for the world’s sins.
So maybe you’re feeling like a second choice today. Maybe you’ve struggled with not being the chosen one. Don’t be discouraged. Have heard and have faith. God has chosen you. His Word says it time and time again.
All you have to do is accept it.