How many women grew up with the "baggage" of labeling, favoritism, neglect or abuse? How can we love the wives and daughters in our lives? Here are a few tips from the soap opera in Genesis.
“Here’s your breakfast, Beautiful. Slap on the feed bag, Fatso.”
Those are the words Daddy Laban spoke to his daughters every morning. Papa Laban dubbed his youngest daughter “Dainty” (That’s what Rachel means in Hebrew). Big Sis Leah was called “Cow” when she emerged from her mother’s womb. In Hebrew culture, names were signifiers, even prophetic. So Leah lived with the stigma of a derogatory moniker her whole life. Can you imagine being dealt such a debilitating blow to your own self-esteem?
I don’t care who you are. EVERY woman struggles with self-esteem issues.
“Does this dress make me look fat?”
“Darn it. Why do I have my mother’s thighs…”
Women come in all shapes and sizes. Who’s to say the beautiful, bulimic starlet should receive more adulation than her buxom, bountiful counterparts? What ever happened to looking inside the “package” and loving a lady first and foremost for her inner beauty and grace?
I grew up with one sister. Her name was “Barbie.” (Her actual name was Kathy, but she was blonde, blue-eyed and gorgeous). Kathy married Ken (who we secretly called “Rich Bud” because he had perfect hair and drove a Ferrari). Kathy and Bud are wonderful people inside and out, but I felt like Midge, Barbie’s plain girlfriend, all my life. I suffered through the acne, glasses, braces and baby fat of early adolescence. I was never homecoming queen, but was blessed that my husband Roger fancied me and followed me around like a sick puppy dog. We’ve been married for three decades and he still treats me like a princess.
Chinese girl babies are still drowned because the family could only have one child, and that child needed to be a son. Sons and their wives lived with his parents, therefore the son’s parents were provided for in their old age. A daughter’s parents had no one to provide security for the future because the bride left to live with the groom’s family.
Don’t even get me started describing the pain and abuse daughters receive in some Islamic homes. My dearest friend in Jordan provides a safe house for girls who have been raped by their fathers and uncles, discarded like trash, condemned as unclean and sent to live on the streets. These precious young women are often destined for a life of imprisonment, poverty or prostitution.
Indian females suffered brutal discrimination and ridicule through the years. However, in a recent ceremony in Mumbai, India, 285 Indian girls with the name “Nakusa” or “unwanted,” were allowed to choose new names.
“A central Indian district held a renaming ceremony it hopes will give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls. "Nakusa is a very negative name as far as female discrimination is concerned," said Dr. Bhagwan Pawar, who came up with the idea for the renaming ceremony. Activists say the name "unwanted," which is widely given to girls across India, gives them the feeling they are worthless and a burden.” The 285 girls — wearing their best outfits with barrettes, braids and bows in their hair — lined up to receive certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets from Satara district officials in Maharashtra state.” Associated Press, 2011.
The book of Genesis recounts Leah’s story of abandonment and rejection. Genesis 29 reads like a soap opera -- replete with favoritism, intrigue, jealousy and sibling rivalry. Poor Leah’s physical description was not flattering.
Genesis 29:16-18: “Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel."
Rachel’s sexy body and flawless face dazzled Jacob, the son of Isaac. Jacob’s request was a slap in the face to poor Leah. The eldest daughter was ALWAYS married first. Papa Laban decided to rectify the situation by deceiving Jacob and slipping Leah under the covers on the wedding night.
After a rollicking wedding celebration, Jacob was shocked the next morning to wake up next to Leah, the older sis, instead of his beloved hottie Rachel. Now you may ask, how could a groom possibly fail to recognize his new wife on their wedding night? Well, according to Bible customs, the tent was dark, Leah was veiled and Jacob was smashed. The Hebrew word for wedding feast was “tslah,” which means “drunken feast.”
In the morning after the wedding night, Jacob was furious. How could his uncle be so cruel and deceitful? Jacob demanded Laban to keep his promise and allow him to marry Rachel. But tricky Laban demanded that Jacob work seven more years for Rachel. Poor Leah. After the obligatory wedding week, she was shunned by her husband and thrown out on her ear. Rachel smugly replaced her in Jacob’ arms and Leah was doomed to live a lonely life, a second-rate wife…
CAN YOU IMAGINE THE IMPACT OF LEAH’S LOW SELF-ESTEEM UPON HER CHILDREN?
God had pity on Leah. She immediately conceived, had a son and named him Reuben, which signified “God knows I am miserable -- surely now Jacob will love me.” Can you imagine? Leah calls from her tent, “Come to dinner, maybe now my husband will love me.”
The second son, Simeon, means “God sees me, but Jacob doesn’t love me.” Can you imagine? Jacob hears Leah call to her son, “Put on your sandals, Jacob doesn’t love me.”
Then, Levi was born, and his name meant “Now my husband will finally become attached to me.” So sitting around the dinner table were “Surely Jacob will love me,” “Maybe now Jacob will love me,” and finally “Jacob will like me a little.”
Spoiled Rachel was grouchy by now because she had yet to bear a son, so when Joseph was born, she named him “I hope I get another one.” Can you imagine calling your first child “I hope I get another one”?
The competition for Jacob’s affection reached the boiling point. In the common practice of the day, Rachel and Leah each gave their maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah, to Jacob and started counting kids.
But as time went by, Leah’s attitude began to change. Her next three sons were Judah, “This time I will praise the Lord,” Issachar, “God has rewarded me for giving my maid servant to my husband,” and Zebulun, “This time my husband will treat me with honor because I have given him six sons.”
Have the women in your life ever received the “Leah” treatment? Have you?
Leah needed to be known and to know she was loved.
First, what might Jacob have done to really know Leah?
He could have spent time with her, learning the unique beauty of her character. If you look closer, the Hebrew word for Leah’s eyes, rakkoth, means her eyes had an impairment, but they could also be tender, delicate and soft. Leah’s eyes were sensitive, gentle and kind. Some men find those features attractive.
Perhaps Rachael’s eyes sparkled while Leah’s were dreamy and tender reflecting their dispositions.
Though she may have been unwanted and despised by Jacob, God saw in her an inner beauty that equipped her for carrying out his plan. There is a kind of beauty that God gives at birth that will eventually wither like a flower. And, there is a beauty God grants to those who are born again by grace. This beauty blooms for eternity.
Next, every woman needs SECURITY! Security is like a “cuddly blanket.”
She needs to know:
“You won’t leave me: you will stay with me. You will be faithful and loyal.
You will give me stability — financially, mentally, emotionally and physically.”
My maternal grandfather was a sex addict. He married and divorced my grandmother three times. He had multiple affairs, coming home at all hours of the night with no explanation or apology. My mom once saw him at the movies with another woman. When she tearfully told her mother, my grandmom shook her head and said nothing. When he had his last affair before their final divorce, Grandpa’s mistress walked straight up to my grandmother, introduced herself and said two words: “He’s mine.”
On the other hand, my father could not have loved my mother more deeply and differently. He constantly romanced her, befriended her and praised her. He knew how deeply impacted she was by her father’s infidelity, so he led a pure, committed Christian life and assured her of his faithfulness. Sixty-five years later, they are still madly in love!
"The Lord appeared from of old to me [Israel], saying, Yes, I have LOVED YOU WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you." Jeremiah 31:3 AMP