A Biblical portrait of Leah
She was drop-dead gorgeous. Ever since we were little girls she had the prettiest friends, looked perfect in every dress Mom made for her, and had boys falling at her feet. As we got older I noticed that Rachel was growing more beautiful. She wasn’t the cutest girl any more; she was a stunning young woman.
I tried not to compete with her, but it was hard. Wherever we went every male would turn to look at her, barely giving me a second glance, and I felt a stab of jealousy. As the years passed my envy grew more intense. Rachel was an outdoors girl. She loved tending Daddy’s sheep and being out in the fields, and her skin glowed like honey from the sun.
Me, on the other hand, I hated the sun with a passion. My pale skin burned easily so I remained indoors, concentrating on learning how to cook and weave. When my father commented on a superb meal I had cooked, I glowed with pride. He always said I would make a wonderful wife one day. That’s all I wanted –a husband to love me and take me out from under Rachel’s shadow. I dreamed of the day my Prince Charming would come to the door. One look at me would make him crazy with love and he wouldn’t even glance at Rachel. He would sweep me off my feet and carry me into the sunset.
Then one day it happened. From lands far away, the handsomest man I had ever seen came to our tent. I was elated. This man made me breathless and I wanted him to notice and love me. That evening, I cooked my most delicious recipes for Jacob. I didn’t even let the servants help me as I bustled around the cooking fire. I wanted to make a good impression.
Don’t they say that the way to a man’s heart is through his food? Hah! That’s a joke. It didn’t work for me. I remember serving the food and desperately trying to get his attention. But the whole time he was looking at Rachel’s lovely figure and gorgeous, smooth face. Her eyes twinkled too, and I realized that she also had a crush on him. I seethed. All she had to do was click her fingers and any guy from miles around would gladly date her. But no, she had to sink her claws into this man! The man I wanted and loved.
From that time on my sister and Jacob spent every day working, whispering and laughing together in the field. Then, one day, Jacob told Daddy that he was in love with Rachel. That was the day I died inside. It was a turning point for me. I wanted to make Rachel’s life a misery.
In my culture, being the eldest child gave me the privilege of being the first to walk down the aisle. But I didn’t have a groom and it looked like there was no Prince Charming anywhere on the horizon for me. Then, one day, Daddy told me he had a plan. He wanted Jacob to marry me, not Rachel. I didn’t understand. By this time Jacob had worked for my father for seven whole years, so why would he change his mind now? He really wanted Rachel, that was clear. How would he ever accept me instead?
Daddy smiled and said that we were going to trick him. He said it was right that I should marry first and that Jacob had no right to ignore laws that had been in place for centuries. My heart thundered and my stomach flip-flopped. Did I dare trick Jacob? Yes! Rachel could have anyone she wanted and I only wanted this one man. ‘I know men, Leah. Once he knows how much you love him, he’ll love you too,’ Daddy said. He was so sure.
My wedding day was a blur and all I remember is peering through the heavy veil and trembling with anticipation. Not sure where Rachel was, I didn’t really care; Daddy would make sure she couldn’t stop this marriage. Finally, the wedding ceremony over, Jacob carried me to his tent and I truly became his. He was my husband. Everything would be perfect.
But morning came and with it the terrible moment of truth. It was plain he did not love me and I still tremble, remembering his fury. His handsome face distorted with his anger and he kept shouting for my father. I begged him to calm down but he ignored me and stalked out. I could hear the heated argument between Daddy and Jacob through the thin walls of the tent and then my heart seized with dread. He still loved Rachel and still wanted to marry her.
Arguing and bartering like businessmen, they finally agreed that Jacob would marry Rachel as well. In one week’s time she would become Jacob’s second wife. Again, my sister had stolen my spotlight. I should be reveling in my husband’s attention and enjoying my new status as wife of a handsome, successful man. Why couldn’t I have been born beautiful like her? I hated myself, but I hated Rachel just as much.
After their wedding, Jacob virtually ignored me. But the way he looked at Rachel! He brought her flowers, fruit, and perfumes from traveling merchants. My heart burned with pain. How I wished that I was the object of his affections. At night I went to bed sad and lonely, crying myself to sleep. I sobbed, praying for God to help me. And then He did. He gave me the most wonderful thing in the world. Children. How my heart burst with joy.
Finally I had something Rachel didn’t have. Can you believe that she became envious of me? Gorgeous Rachel, jealous of me? Oh, how I laughed with delight. Finally I had the upper hand. Now Jacob would love me more, I thought. But nothing really changed. Jacob would never love me the way he loved my sister. What hurt more was that when Rachel had her first son Joseph, Jacob loved him more than all of my children put together. He showered the child with gifts and love, just like his mother. My children, on the other hand, had to work hard to get their father’s respect.
Then one day my sister announced that she was pregnant again and I cringed. Another child of hers. More competition for my sons! But I never wanted this: Rachel died during child birth, leaving little Benjamin without a mother.
The day we buried my sister something inside me broke. I cried and cried. All the years of hurt, resentment, and self-loathing came pouring out. I realized that I never really knew my sister. All those years of rivalry were wasted years, and neither one of us had ever been truly happy. What a shame to put all of my energy into something so pointless. Now that I’m old, I wish things had been different. I wish that my sister and I could have been friends. I wish that I had loved myself a little more and enjoyed my uniqueness –the way God had intended. God didn’t plan my misery, I did that myself. I know now that I should have enjoyed my life as a woman of God. However, I had hardly lived at all.
Do you envy someone or want to be like someone else? Don’t. You were made Gorgeous in God’s Image. Live and be His girl. Imitate Him instead of your sibling or some popular girl or someone in a teen magazine. Be the person God intended you to be.
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