Category Archives: Learn it

How to Start a Quest

Step one: Recognize and Answer the Call to Adventure

My inner writer died. 

I’m not really sure when it happened, but I came to the stark realization that it did a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to push past what some people I guess would call “writer’s block”, but it’s not a block—it’s a death. Life got busy. Priorities shifted. And I just did take time to breathe life into my inner writer. 

So I mourned her death. Struggled with a little depression…and then began the process of rebirth. 

“ None of us possess a life devoid of magic, barren of grace, divorced from power” 

Julia Cameron

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That’s the beautiful part about our creativity—as we grow and change we will often kill off the playful and inspired part of ourselves that wants to push limits and think outside the box…but we can get it back if we are willing to do the work. 

So, I invite you on my QUEST to resurrect a part of myself that I lost sight of. 

Step two: Get help–Assistance is always required to complete a quest

I mentioned in my last post how much I enjoyed Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way and that book was incredibly inspiring several years ago during my golden age of writing. So, naturally, I went back to Cameron and have found another installment that seems to be exactly what I need right now. I am starting my journey by reading The Vein of Gold, a book whose primary concern is healing the inner child. And let’s face it—I pretty much ignore my inner child. I’m sure she’s in there somewhere—probably sleeping. If I want my creative juices to start flowing again I’m going to have to wake her up. So I’m embarking on this quest with Cameron at the helm and one goal in mind: resurrect my inner writer and return to my golden age of creativity. I invite you to join me (through my blog posts, of course, but if you are feeling a little fuddy-duddy-ish, grab yourself a copy and take the journey with me literally!

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“Something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game.” Defying Gravity—Stephen Schwartz—Wicked

Step three: Depart—and don’t let the valid excuses become reasons to avoid the Renaissance

“We are romancing our creative urges. Nothing kills a romance more quickly than a few broken promises” Julia Cameron

I started in several ways this week. First, I said yes spontaneously (me???) to an unexpected invitation to see Wicked with a friend—which just reminded me how much I really do love musicals…and the theater…

So I spent most of the rest of the week singing different broadway musicals at the top (and I do mean the top) of my ever-so-off-key lungs. 

And I realized that my mood journal took a huge upswing this week—so many more positives than negatives. Coincidence? Well, maybe. But it sure did feel good. Did I do a lot of writing? Not really, but I don’t expect the world to right itself overnight. And hey—I did a blog post 2 weeks in a row, so that’s improvement!

So stop fearing the worst, continue to hope for the best, and take a few leaps of faith along the way and you might be surprised by when and where the Lord meets you in your unadulterated neediness. 

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” Joseph Campbell

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20 Goals for 2020

Sure, it may be cheesy.

It may be cliche.

BUT who can resist a good numbers game as we kick off a new decade?

And so, here I am, finally back into the writing groove and ready to set some goals, because next to godliness and cleanliness–goal-setting should always be a top priority.

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Goal 1: Write More

I didn’t list these in any particular order, but I wanted to start with writing, because, let’s face it–that is what this blog is all about. I’ve always loved writing, but when I first started this journey, one of the main things I learned is that writers don’t just write when it is convenient, but they make it a priority. I have not been making it much of a priority lately–there are other things going on and I just kind of push the writing off to the side. I realized recently what a terrible idea that is, because writing is how I process and release. The other day I couldn’t figure out why the past couple of years have felt like such a backslide in personal growth–then it struck me: duh! You aren’t doing what you love, what comes as naturally as breathing, what helps you make sense of the world and express the emotions that you often find so overwhelming that you shut down, you turtle into something nearly unrecognizable as you shut people out. So I need to stop making excuses and make a concentrated effort to write more.

I know, that’s vague, so the next few goals are really kind of subgoals for this one.

Goal 2 (or 1a): Do Your Morning Pages

A few years ago, I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron with a group of writer friends. It really opened up some passionate ideas and projects, so I’m going to rewind and go through this again (I did some posts about it on here too #TheArtist’sWay). I cram a lot into my mornings as it is, but this was always a successful way to start the day–not exactly journaling, but just getting thoughts and ideas on paper. I’ve never been a good journaler, but filling up notebooks with ideas was a useful way to start my mornings back in my writing prime, so I want to get back to that.

Goal 3 (or 1b): Set aside a least 15 minutes per day for writing

Sometimes I complain that I don’t have time for anything, and then I realize I spent time on an electronic device, or staring at the TV that I could have easily spent on something more productive; again that is cliche. I don’t love how much screen time I use–my excuse has always been that I am so tired of thinking by the end of the day I need something mindless to relax. On some level, that’s still true. On another, it is just an excuse for laziness. And that’s not okay. Especially when I have such big goals that have yet to be accomplished.

Goal 4 (or 1c): Finish What You Started

At the moment I have 3 books completely written, but I haven’t taken the time to gut and edit them–or I’ve been putting it off–or I’ve been busy and overwhelmed with other things in life. But now is the time to finish what I have started and stop with all the meh.

Goal 5 (or 1d): Find your Niche

I moved to SC a few years ago and it was absolutely the right move, but I miss the writing community I had when I lived in NC. I’ve tried a couple of different things here, but I haven’t been able to find the right fit yet. So, I’m going to make a concentrated effort to find that community again.

Goal 6 (or 1e): Don’t abandon the blog

Blogging is not my passion, but I think the public sharing of my writing is kind of an important step that I took a few years ago, so I want to keep maintaining it. Sometimes, as you know, I will go months without posting. Not on purpose, but just because, you know, life. Putting it on the priority list, will help me ensure it doesn’t fall by the wayside. I hope.

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Goal 7: Read More

I read a lot. Trust me, I do. But this can always be a goal for me, because even when I read a lot, I can always make time to read more–or maybe what I really mean is to read more diverse things. I read a lot of fiction. I need to balance that with a healthy dose of non fiction and books I might not have chosen for myself, but that open up something new for me to learn.

Goal 8 (or 7a): Read at least 75 books (Goodreads)

Last year the goal was 60–so I’m upping the ante…

Goal 9 (or 7b): Of the 75 books at least 25 will be non fiction

That sounds pretty silly, but that’s saying a lot for me, so it’s attainable, but challenging.

Goal 10 (or 7c): Write reviews for at lest 50% of the books I read

Sometimes, I’m re-reading so the 50% accounts for that, and also for the times I read series and have pretty much the same thing to say for each of the books and don’t want to be redundant.

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Goal 11: Monitor Emotional Health

I bought a mood journal, and it was a good move. It’s a planner, but it always asks great reflective questions at the end of the week that help me focus on the good and process the bad. I know, at 34 you’d think I’d have this all figured out, but I’m a work in progress. So yeah.

Goal 12: Be Ready for God to Move

God is mighty and powerful. Sometimes though I underestimate just how powerful He is. That is dangerous. So, for my 2020 word, I chose (with a little prompting from the Holy Spirit) a Hebrew word: Hinneni. This roughly translates to Here I am or I am Ready, but the connotations take it further and deeper–it requires an enriching trust, a bond between father and child. This is what I want to build this year on.

Goal 13 (or 9a): Seek after God by spending more time in His Word

I think the Bible is beautiful. In addition to a weekly Bible study and morning quiet times, I want to seek to organize what I learn in new ways, which interestingly enough helps with goals 1 and 7 and even 8.

Goal 14 (or 9b): Don’t just say you are praying–spend more time in focused prayer.

One thing I know about relationships is they don’t grow unless you spend time conversing–and that requires a sacrifice. Those times when I feel like I need to escape into mindlessness are a great place to start.

Goal 15 (or 9c): Let go of the doubt, Embrace the promises

I have a hard time, sometimes, seeing past the tangible and trusting in the intangible. Especially if it isn’t the plan I expected or wanted. Those doubts can choke the life out of me. I need to make a concentrated effort everyday to choose what I will serve: doubt or truth.

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Goal 16: Drink more water

I know, health goals are cheesy. And honestly, I make this a goal most weeks–sometimes I stick to it; other times I don’t. But writing it down, that’s what helps make it more of a probability rather than an afterthought.

Goal 17: Move more

I’m constantly moving from about 8am to 3pm. After that I have no desire to move. That’s not very healthy, so I’m adding it to the goal. Yes, I know this is vague, but saying “I’ll exercise at least 30 minutes a day” is pretty unrealistic for me (I’m just being honest), so I’ll keep it vague and see where it goes–then if needed, the goal will be adjusted.

Goal 18: Eat more vegetables

Fruits are easy. Vegetables are hard. Enough said.

Goal 19: Take an “artist date” at least 6 times

This goes back to the book, The Artist’s Way. I used to do these all the time and had such fun, so I’m going to add those back to my goal list.

Goal 20: Seek out real connections, even when (or maybe especially when) it feels uncomfortable.

Social events make me anxious. Partly because I struggle so much with feeling unwanted–making small talk is so hard for me, and that is half of what a social event is all about. After I attempt it, and kind of fail, I feel an irrational sense of contempt from others, even though I know it is really just that annoying voice in my head that wishes I didn’t have any failings–but this is a big one. So the goal, even when I’m uncomfortable or worried about feeling unwanted or ‘weird’ or overlooked or whatever–I will still strive for those connections.

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Your turn! What are some of your goals? List them in the comments! I love to learn from you

Authentic: Hagar

Generally speaking, I don’t love to play games.

When game nights are organized sometimes I will participate because it is a fantastic way to be social, but immediately I feel my heart begin to race and I question everything I say or do from the time I accept the invitation till the game night is over. It’s exhausting, like fighting a battle you know you can’t win.

I tell people it’s because I am not competitive and so competition makes me uncomfortable, but the more I think about it the more I realize that’s not actually true.

Truth is, I am actually very competitive. Not in the shout in your face, aggressive kind of way, but in the silently-beat-yourself-up-if-you-don’t-come-out-on-top kind of way. So I don’t love game nights, not because I need to win, but because I hate who I become: a prisoner.

The truth is, everyone is competitive. Since the fall of Eden, it seems every human is out to prove they are better, stronger, or smarter than everyone else…or at least than someone else. Although she may have had every right to feel self-righteous, Hagar allowed competition to transform her as well. As Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar had little choice in how she lived her own life. Subject to her mistress’s whims, she lacked control over most aspects of her life, but even she had an internal drive to prove she was better.

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Made Servant

The first mention of Hagar is in Genesis 16, when Sarai has gotten tired of waiting on God’s promise and tells Abram that God must have left something out in their conversation: it’s a child from you, not necessarily from me. So, she says, sleep with my maidservant and we will raise that child as a fulfillment of God’s promise.

Modern 21st century women (and hopefully men) immediately hear the warning bells of competition start to chime. This woman who has been submitting to the authority of another woman whose name literally means princess suddenly has a chance to shine. Hagar gets pregnant immediately and then in verse 4 we see that attitude shift—that transformation that comes with the catalyst we call competition: Hagar looks down on, looks with contempt on, lightly esteems, or my personal favorite, despises her mistress.

What an ugly transformation.

And it didn’t do much for Sarai either. She immediately does what humans do: gets rid of the competition. In Genesis 16:5 she blames Abram for all the trouble between the women in the household, failing to see that the fault is not with any one individual but the culture that has been created through this one-upping lifestyle. Because when we place too much value on what we can accomplish and how others see us, we fail to acknowledge the one who created us. The one who formed us in His image—all of us—not to be better or prove ourselves (that’s how Satan was cast out of heaven, btw), but to love one another as He first loved us.

In a vain effort to restore peace to his charged home, Abram does not instill discipline or build community among his family, instead he taps out, giving Sarai free reign to treat Hagar in whatever way she wants (Genesis 16:6).

When we place too much value on what we can accomplish and how others see us, we fail to acknowledge the one who created us.

Let the rule book free games begin. And we all know how that ends. Rules exist for a reason in every competition: without them there will always be bloodshed.

Sarai does whatever it takes to put Hagar back in her place: maidservant made servant.

Being Seen

The point of competition is always the same: we want to be seen, loved and acknowledged for being good at something. For being the best. We thrive on the tangible affirmations, and Hagar is no different. She flees from Sarai’s abuse (after dishing out some of her own) to the desert in Genesis 16: 6-13. What’s interesting is the interaction with the angel of the Lord in this quiet place. The angel found her—she didn’t go looking for him, he came looking for her. He pursued her. She felt unwanted, unloved and unseen. He asked her where she was going, and it’s this moment of emotion that she subconsciously acknowledges she doesn’t know. I’m running away. Is all she responds.

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What happens next is a little hard for me to understand and swallow, as a 21st century American woman, and yet I can still learn something valuable. That’s what I love about the Bible—I don’t need to understand everything, I just need to learn something about God who will then teach me something about myself. because the Bible isn’t about us! It’s about God. So, here’s the skinny:

  1. Running away never solves the problem. Not that I blame her, but when Hagar ran, she didn’t solve the problem. She actually created more problems: Where will I sleep? What will I eat? Where will I find safety? How will I care for my infant son? Running away seem like the easy solution, but instead of solving our problems, we usually just create more
  2. God requires submission from all of us if we are to live in his purpose. The word submission carries so many negative connotation that we balk at the word. The truth is, submission doesn’t mean powerlessness, it simply means obedience. God requires our obedience, which is why the world is set up in a kind of hierarchy. It mimics God’s purpose for us. The angel of the Lord sent Hagar back, maybe because she needed to learn the most valuable lesson of all: submission to authority. Sarai was mean to her, but Hagar was also responsible for this. Instead of gratefulness at her pregnancy, she chose contempt and created a climate of competition. Learning to submit is never easy when our sin nature demands us to be the greatest (isn’t that why Eve and Adam ate that fruit? They wanted to be equal with God?), but it’s the only way we can live in alignment with God’s will & purpose for our lives.
  3. Being known is more important than being the best. Often we think that we have to be the best or the greatest to be known, but the truth is those who love us best are the ones who have seen us at our worst.

In order to move forward, Hagar had to go back. I don’t think this means we have to live in the past, but I do think God requires us to deal with our past if we are going to build any kind of future with him. Hagar responds with gratefulness to the Lord who took the time to see and know her. Sure, the instructions were probably not what she would have chosen herself, but they were clear and given out of love. God didn’t promise her she would be the best, nor did he promise that her son would be the best, but He promised her hope and a future, as he does for each of us.

Moving On

Hagar spent a little over a decade in Abram and Sarai’s home as a maidservant and mother to Abram’s first born. So, in Genesis 21 when Isaac is born to Sarah and when Abram had become Abraham, Ishmael was about 14 years old. By this time , Ishmael might have been living under the delusion that he would be the child of the covenant and God had maybe changed his mind or something. After all—14 years had past and no baby had shown up. Abraham loved Ishmael. But then in an interesting twist, just like Hagar, Ishmael feels a certain amount of competition with this new baby. As the first born he feels he has the right to the promises and inheritance of Abraham, but as the son of a servant he has very little legal recourse. And so, he transforms into something ugly too…

He mocks a toddler.

The Bible doesn’t tell us why he is mocking the toddler, but I suspect it has something to do with just how close Sarah keeps Isaac to her—even in Biblical times a momma’s boy wasn’t exactly the tip top of the social pyramid. When the competition heightens, people get hurt. Sarah demands the pseudo family gets sent away.

Abraham loves his son, but he listens to God who tells him to send Hagar and Ishmael on—and so Hagar is forced to move on. Ishmael had to be around 16 or 17 by this point, but the language of ‘boy’ gives the impression he is much younger, and the fact that Hagar is still very much the one in charge and accountable speaks to the fact that it is she to whom God is speaking, not ‘the boy’.

When she thought she had it all together, there was no room for God. When she thought she had won in the competition with Sarah, there was no room for God. When her son mocked his half brother in a false sense of security, there was no room for God.

When she as at the end of her rope, feeling hopeless and helpless God shows up. Only then does he lead her into a new life and breathes life into the boy and his future.

And that’s when he shows up for us too—not when we are on top, or striving to prove ourselves, but when we humble ourselves and recognize that our place is at his feet, submitting to his will.

AUTHENTIC: MARTHA

How did I get into this mess?

I’m sure this questions has wandered through your mind on more than one occasion, depending on your situation what preceded it could have been anything—after all one of our specialties as humans is getting in over our heads and trying to back out only to find ourselves sinking faster and farther.

For me, these are the words I utter when all the things I have said yes to come raining down on my head all at once and threaten to drown me in a sea of responsibilities. Because once I commit to something…I commit to it. Sometimes too much. The curse of perfectionism (yeah, I know it’s not healthy and somewhat sinful…that’s why I called it a curse) is the constant struggle of trying to do everything and trying to do everything right.

I like to be busy, but the downside to that is sometimes I get too busy and forget the things that really should matter.

Can you relate? Even if you don’t overextend yourself as much as I do, I feel as though we can all allow our busy-ness to get in the way of our healthy-ness.

Martha sure can.

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She was the epitome of allowing all that she was doing get in the way of her being. Because God isn’t a God of doing. He is a God of being. That’s why his name is I Am not I Do.

Family Responsibilities

We are first introduced to Martha in Luke 10. She lives in a little town of Bethany (about 2 miles from Jerusalem) with her sister, Mary, and her brother, Lazarus. This trio is, if not inseparable, at least incredibly close. Never is any mention of any other family made, so I can’t help but wonder, did Martha have a husband? If not, why? The text, Luke 10:38 tells us that Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. Does this house belong only to her, or is simply a reference to her hospitality? I don’t know. I like to think that she was a strong, single woman, but I know how unlikely that would be given the cultural context, but what I do know is that husband her not, she is recognized as an important part of Jesus’ story.

The whole account is recorded in Luke 10:38-42, and aside from the family relationships, we are told two things 1) Martha welcomed Jesus into her home and 2) she was distracted with much serving.

Because God isn’t a God of doing. He is a God of being. That’s why his name is I AM not I DO

Whoa.

I don’t know about you, but if Jesus came to my house in the flesh, I’d be a little distracted too! Not only would I worry about the smells and cleanliness, but I’d be super busy trying to keep him—and his entourage—fed and happy! Because let’s face it, Jesus didn’t travel alone and any time he went anywhere a crowd was sure to follow. Not only was she responsible for the comfort of 13 men (Jesus +disciples) I am certain others kept showing up. It is her home! As a southern woman, I can relate to the pressure she must have felt to make sure everyone was feeling comfortable and served.

But then, there is Mary.

Martha is working herself to a frenzy…and where is her sister? Sitting! Sitting and listening!

In Martha’s mind, she sees her sister sitting at the feet of Jesus and is burned up with anger. How dare her sister come into her home and act so selfishly?

Boy can I relate to that—Most of the time I love the busy life. I love serving. I love making sure that jobs get done that other people find unpleasant.

But every once in a while, I see someone else sitting…and typically it’s someone who hasn’t seemed to do anything at all to be helpful with whatever it is I am working on.

And there they are, sitting and chatting while I am running around doing, doing, doing.

I can imagine what was going through Martha’s mind—no servant’s heart, but anger and jealousy as she watches her sister do nothing. I know, because I have experienced the same—what started out as a selfless act turned into a need for recognition.

Becoming so distracted with serving that you literally forget why and who you are serving in the first place.

Well finally Martha has had enough and she orders Jesus to send her sister in to help. Yep, you heard that right, she gives Jesus an order.

I actually see this scene in my mind quite clearly as Jesus cocks his head to one side and studies Martha. He hasn’t even touched the plate she sat in front of him—because he’s been talking and teaching the whole time. He looks around the room and sees all the faces—these humans who are so hungry for him they also haven’t touched any of the food. In this moment of quiet they might nibble something, but most of them are eagerly leaning forward to see what he might say—after all it is this moment that might define the gender roles forever—are men the only ones who can enjoy and benefit from teaching while the women serve? Are women subservient? Second class?

And then he responds.

Stop doing so much, Martha. Stop all those action verbs—serving, working, troubling—stop doing and be with me more.

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Listen then Serve, Not Serve then Listen

Jesus didn’t tell her that serving was bad. He just told her that she was worrying too much about things that don’t matter! That she needed to recenter her focus—less on what she was doing and more on who she was with!

In all her serving she had forgotten that she stood in the presence of Jesus.

She was so busy she almost missed it.

It doesn’t tell us how Martha responded. But given her actions the next time we meet up with her, I like to think she went a little slack jawed, then looked around the room and saw what Jesus saw.

And then she stopped to listen.

Why do I think this? Because Martha was also the sister who lost her brother, Lazarus. She sent for Jesus to come heal him, because she knew that he could, and then she waited. And watched. And nursed. And witnessed her brother die.

I have a sister. And a brother. I feel Martha’s struggles. I feel her pain. And while I don’t know if she is the oldest, I want to believe she is the middle kid given all her striving for perfection and acceptance. But it’s hard to say. Regardless, I feel this story on a deep and spiritual level. Watching someone you are close to—your brother—die and not being able to fix it is something akin to falling into a deep, deep well.

Down, down, down…

And then..

SMACK.

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From that well, you hear Jesus. And you call out to him, as Martha did in John 11: 20-21, Lord, if only. If only you had come sooner! I know your power. I know your love. If only.

And then she could have stopped, but her next words are why I think she listened in her own home early—why I think she listened.

Even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you. John 11:22

Hope. Even at the bottom of that dark well, Martha found hope, not anger and righteous indignation we saw earlier in the story. She found light. The light. And she reached for it, and professed her faith loudly, firmly and with conviction of one who listened.

Yes, Lord; I believe that your re the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world. John 11:27

We don’t hear that profession of faith from a lot of people in the Bible, but Martha is one of them who states it firmly and without hesitation and it is recorded for all to hear and remember throughout history.

Yes, Martha listened, but her practical nature can never be denied (um, Jesus, she says when he wants to open the tomb, he’s been in there a while…it’s gonna, you know, smell pretty bad…)…and honestly, I find a lot of comfort in that. Jesus changes our hearts and our motivations, but each of us is unique and he doesn’t want to change that about us. He accepts our unique qualities and even encourages it.

It is, after all, Martha’s home Jesus returns to 6 days before the Passover, where she serves him—only days before he is to die. Jesus seeks those who seek to serve and honor him. Even if he does have to correct them from time to time. We are, after all, just humans.

Authentic :: Rachel

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Rachel and Leah—if for no other reason than because everyone has always called Rachel and Jacob a “great love story” on par with “Romeo and Juliet”. I just want to go on record that “Romeo and Juliet” is not a love story—by Shakespeare’s own admission it’s a cautionary tale and a tragedy, but it’s really more about impulsive decisions leading to some pretty dire consequences in a world where violence and corruption are so prevalent that even love is corrupted. So in other words, you should always think things through and act with your head in addition to your ever-changing emotions. I kind of see Rachel and Jacob in the same light. Jacob is a super impulsive man who rarely thinks with anything other than those darn emotions and doesn’t see the consequences of said actions until God is bailing him out of whatever situation he’s found himself in. Now that gives me a lot of hope because the good Lord knows how often he has to dig me out of my own head and place me back on His path. And Rachel…well it took me a long time to read this story with any kind of grace for her, and that has more to do with my own demons than the girl’s actions in and of themselves.

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Love At First Sight

Genesis 29:7 has Jacob seeing his cousin for the first time. After a long journey, he is tired and ready for some good ol’ hospitality. He’s his momma’s boy, after all, and hasn’t spent a lot of time in the fields or out on his own really, so he’s ready for a home cooked meal and a nice bed I can imagine. And then he sees her. The townspeople have identified her, and he is eager to be on his way—or maybe he’s eager to be alone with her, after all he is encouraging the others to water their sheep and go back to the pastures. Either way, it’s clear that he wants to impress Rachel when he “rolls the stone away” all by himself and “water’s his uncle’s sheep”. All we know of Rachel at this point is that she is a shepherdess, so she spends a lot of time outside. Probably she has dark skin, bright eyes, and later in Genesis 29:17 we are told she is “lovely in form”, probably from all that exercise she gets being out with the sheep and covering a lot of ground day in and day out. You go girl.

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At any rate, she arrives and after Jacob shows off his muscles—or his impatience (take your pick)—he kisses her and begins “to weep aloud”. I feel pretty justified in my assertion that he is an emotional man, not that emotions are a bad thing, but he tends to let them kind of get the better of his common sense sometimes—very Romeo of him (if you’ve read the play, then you know what I’m saying). Like when he hangs out with his uncle for a month and falls in love with the pretty daughter—who he is so in love with he suggests working 7 years for her hand in marriage (and so he can work up some property of his own) but “they only seemed like a few days to him because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:19). Which sounds really sweet, and maybe it is, except for his demand to Labon. In the very next verse “Give me my wife…I want to lie with her,” which just seems kind of shallow to me. But I live in the 21st century, my perception is colored by my disdain for this kind of thinking.

God knows what we need is not always what we want.

All through this bargaining, we don’t get any of Rachel’s thoughts, feelings or emotions. Even when Labon tricks Jacob into lying with his other daughter—thus gaining a BOGO wife deal—we hear nothing of Rachel’s thoughts or emotions. Was she as in love with Jacob as he was with her? I have my doubts about her devotion, which is part of why I feel that God arranged for Jacob—whom he had chosen to receive the blessing of Abraham and Isaac—to marry Leah too (and first), because God knows what we need is not always what we want.

What a Girl Wants

After Jacob unwittingly marries Leah, I would expect Rachel to be a little bit salty—especially if she was as in love with Jacob as he was with her.

Actually, we don’t see Rachel’s reaction to this marriage arrangement at all. In Genesis 29:30 it tells us that Jacob love Rachel more than Leah, but we already knew that. It doesn’t tell us anything about how Rachel feels about the situation…until her sister starts to have kids and she remains barren. This is where I start to struggle extending grace to Rachel. We’ve seen women deal with barrenness before—in previous generations of the same family—but none of these women react in the same spoiled little princess way that Rachel does. In Genesis 30:1 she declares to Jacob that if he doesn’t give her children she will just die. Oh please, girl. You will not die. Even Jacob gets annoyed with her in his response in Genesis 30:2 “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”

Rachel doesn’t want to please God. She doesn’t even want to please Jacob. She is only concerned about pleasing herself, and this is seen throughout the course of the narrative.

God shows us that wanting certain things in our lives is not necessarily a bad thing. Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, all these women wanted children. Our wants are not the problem. Our desires are not the problem. Our hearts and our motivations are what God cares about the most. In her selfishness, Rachel hurt her sister, her husband, and ultimately God, but her wants seemed more important, and it almost got her killed by her father.

Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

Genesis 31:19 reveals the crux of Rachel’s problems. When Jacob is ready to flee Laban, because he knows he’s overstayed his welcome, Rachel steals her father’s household gods. Then when her father pursues them and demands the return of the gods, Jacob is so offended (after all, he’s a follower of his father’s God) he said if they gods are found Laban can put that individual to death. Rachel is wily though. She hides them under her saddle and sat on them—then she played the “period” card—which of course sent this ancient man a running because, well, whose father wants to talk about that with his daughter? So she gets away with the crime…and keeps the idols. Rachel can never be as happy as Jacob or even her sister, who finds peace in embracing a personal relationship with God, simply because Rachel searches for validation in the things of this world: children, husband, idols. You see, what a girl wants is not always what she needs.

You Took My Husband

Leah gets a bad rap in this story nine times out of ten she is seen as the manipulative one—the one who stole Rachel’s fiancé from beneath her sister’s nose. But I think that is an unfair statement. Not only was Leah acting in obedience to her father when she married Jacob, I wonder if she was also acting in obedience to God and her own heart. This is pure speculation, mind you, but I find Genesis 30:15 to be an incredibly revealing verse: “But she [Leah] said to her [Rachel], “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”

Oh Leah, interesting point. Didn’t you take away Rachel’s betrothed….? There are so many unanswered questions here, and that is the first thing I expected Rachel to bring up. But it isn’t! The verse ends with: “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” Rachel concedes to Leah’s claim!

The story is complicated, and not exactly the greatest love story of all time. Sure, Jacob loved Rachel—but Rachel only loved what Jacob could give her and when he didn’t, she sought it elsewhere…everywhere but with God. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, when we seek our validation outside of our Almighty Creator, all we do is create heartache for ourselves—and those around us. Leah learned this lesson. Rachel never did. And as a result, their family—though formed under the blessing of God—would always live in strife and contention.

So the lesson here? If you want to avoid tragedy, seek God’s favor, and thank him for your blessings. That doesn’t mean your life will always be easy, but it can make a difference in how you react and live through life’s disappointments. Don’t believe me? Just ask Leah and Rachel.