A Love Lesson From Leah

Genesis 29

Shared from Frankn Eberrn Facebook Post

Leah helps us realize that most of what we call love, and our search for it, is really a desperate expedition for evidence that we are valuable enough to be loved in the first place. We want to feel like our life is worth something to someone. We are desperate to be known not just as a body but as a soul. We want to be vulnerable and in that vulnerability to be accepted. We want to be loved unconditionally.

This is where we find the great struggle of looking for true love. As one author puts it, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.” Each of us wants to find a way to open up our hearts and lives and know that in that moment of honesty we will be accepted and not rejected.

We all know the risks so we tend toward pretending. Too nervous to share the truth, we morph into whatever seems most desirable. But that is empty. We know it and we just do not know what else to do. We feel like we have to keep the show going. After all what is the alternative? If we open up with the whole truth, we face the risk of being ridiculed, rejected and thrown away.

The Bible has a remarkable story about a woman named Leah who discovered that finding true love was difficult. Leah was the daughter of a wealthy and manipulative man named Laban. Leah also had a sister named Rachel, one of the most beautiful women in the whole region. Leah was described as weak in the eyes. We do not know exactly what that phrase means but it is not hard to guess. Even without the side by side comparison to her beautiful sister, Leah was not drawing much attention.

One day, Rachel was herding the sheep when a young man named Jacob came to the well. His journey’s purpose was to find a wife so it did not take him long to notice beautiful Rachel approaching. He rolled away the stone over the well and watered the sheep for her. Learning he was her father’s nephew she ran home to tell Laban the news. Already head over heels in love or call it “love at first sight” if you wish, Jacob stayed on with Laban. When asked what his wages should be he immediately asked to marry Rachel. Laban made Jacob an offer. “Work for me seven years without pay then I will give you my daughter.”

What makes love so hard and sometimes painful is the vulnerability that always seems to accompany it.

It is starting to sound like a romantic story for the ages. Jacob was so madly in love that he did not hesitate. Seven years he worked, everyday focused on his prize. One day he would finally be able to marry the woman of his dreams, Rachel. The Bible records the event with all of the poetry we would expect from a great love story. “Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.”

After seven years of labor the wedding day finally arrived. The party must have been massive. When night came Jacob and his new bride, probably wearing her wedding veil, went into their tent.

The next morning Jacob awoke the Bible says “and behold it was Leah”. Jacob had been tricked! Laban had switched his daughters on the wedding night and tricked Jacob into marrying his oldest Leah. Why? Laban wanted another seven years of free labor before he would allow Jacob to actually marry Rachel. Still madly in love with Rachel Jacob agrees and works another seven years to marry this younger daughter.

We like the image of Jacob. He was willing to submit himself to over a decade of manual labor as an act of love for Rachel whom he considered to be his soulmate. Like a great Shakespearian tragedy, we desperately want to find that kind of love too. We want to know that someone would make such a sacrifice for us. This expression of love is the deepest craving of our heart. But allowing ourselves to be quickly carried off in the ecstasy of the moment misses the real heart of the story for Leah.

Leah had never been able to draw much attention. She had always been the hopeless romantic. But now things were much worse. Leah was married to a man who never for a moment loved her and was manipulated by a father as payment for help around the farm. Leah was not loved by her husband nor even her father. She was used and discarded. When she was most vulnerable she was rejected.

Each of us wants to find a way to open up our hearts and lives and know that in that moment of honesty we will be accepted and not rejected.

What happened next is subtle but important for us to understand our own struggle with love and rejection. In Leah’s first century world women cared deeply about building a family, especially having sons to which they could pass on their family name. A father’s proudest moment was the birth of his first son. Soon after being married, Jacob wanted a son. Leah saw an opportunity. If she could be the first to give Jacob a son surely then he would love and appreciate her. Leah must have been excited to find out she was pregnant and even more excited when she gave birth to the family’s first son, Reuben. 

Leah believed in her heart that God had blessed her with this son so that now her husband would finally love her. But nothing changed. Leah gave birth to a second son she named him Simeon. Again she believed God had seen her rejection. Now surely her husband would love her. But nothing changed. Leah had a third son who she named Levi. She honestly hoped that now her husband would care for her and love her. But again nothing changed.

Leah’s story teaches us that finding true love is difficult. True love goes beyond the passion of romance and even finding a partner for the sake of being married. While romance and having our needs met for provision and security are important, there is more that we must discover.

Leah’s life was controlled by the hope that she could somehow make herself lovable. She was desperate to find a way to earn her husband’s attention. Her broken heart and desperation to be loved teaches us a deeply personal truth about our own search for true love. We inevitably all feel the crushing weight of trying to earn it.

Marketers sell us the idea that if we were just a little bit more attractive, a little thinner, and a little better dressed, then someone would finally take notice, and we would feel loved. But we do not. Culture pressures us to set aside our prudish reluctance, and instead give away our bodies with the promise that intimacy leads to love. But it does not.

Honestly, true love has never really been about romance or passion at all. It is about truth and value. It is about vulnerability and acceptance.

The harder we try, the more desperate we become to find the magic potion. We believe that with the poison tipped arrow of Cupid in our hand we need only hit our target and watch as love and intimacy explodes into a vibrant life of confidence, fulfillment, and passion. But that is not real life. So we end up settling for watching it play out in movies and dreaming about it in novels. Our own experience feels more like crawling our way through the dunes of the Sahara Desert, desperate to find an oasis with water. Just when we think we have finally found true love, we are crushed with the reality that it was just a mirage, and we have nothing to show for it.

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