The messages are everywhere. We are bombarded with reminders of love and romance, flowers and candy, smiles and happiness. It is Valentine's Day.
But what do you do when none of these things are a part of your day? Love and romance? Somehow you missed that train. Flowers and candy? Only if you buy them for yourself. Smiles and happiness? Well, not today.
You are left with so many questions. Why have I been overlooked? How did I get left behind? Why haven't I met Mr. Right? Why have I been rejected? Am I not enough?
Last week, I had the opportunity of looking in depth at the story of Leah and Rachel in the book of Genesis. We are introduced to these two sisters in chapter 29, verse 17 with this statement, "Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful." Guess who the man (Jacob) loved?
This has never seemed fair to me. I want to know more about Leah. Who was she on the inside? Couldn't Jacob see past the outside appearance?
As the story goes on, Jacob is tricked into marrying Leah. But he really wants to be married to Rachel, so he works a total of 14 years for the opportunity to be married to both sisters. And this leaves the sisters in a very interesting situation. They are married to the same man, but he only loves one of them. Turns out that the one he doesn't love is able to have babies. And the one he loves is barren. (Sounds similar to Hannah and Penninah, doesn't it?)
"When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless." (Genesis 29:31) I can't help loving this statement- that God saw Leah's misery and sought to comfort her. But I can't help feeling sorry for Rachel too- did she deserve to be childless just because she was loved?
I have contemplated these things and have been struck again with how unfair life can be at times. It wasn't Leah's fault that she looked the way that she did. And as much as I don't like it, it is unfair for me to judge Jacob for loving Rachel and not Leah.
But this is what I wonder- how would things have changed if the sisters had banded together and truly loved one another? Would they have been able to fill up the empty spaces that were missing in their lives? They were sisters after all. What would have changed if they had really loved one another?
Would Rachel have been able to rejoice with the precious babies that Leah conceived and bore? Would Leah have mourned with Rachel over her closed womb? Would Rachel have challenged Jacob to love her sister?
The truth is that whether or not we celebrate or loathe Valentine's Day, we all have empty places in our hearts. We all have longings unfulfilled. It is easy to make assumptions about other people- they are so happy with their husband and their kids- they certainly aren't missing anything in their lives. Or they have no idea what it is like to be able to just go out for dinner if they want to- they don't have to get a babysitter.
We can be so quick to see what others have that we may want and then assume that they must be happy. But have we been willing to learn what their unfulfilled longings are? Because I guarantee that they are there.
Romantic love and a quiver full of children was never meant to fulfill us or to be enough. If we believe that lie, we will always be dissatisfied with life. Our deepest longings can only be filled by the One who loves us with an everlasting love.
Have you accepted this love that the Father lavishes on us- his children? (1 John 3:1)
When we are able to accept the love that the Father has for us, the love that Jesus demonstrated for us by dying for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), we are left with a challenge to love one another as well.
So, instead of looking at this day as another day of unfulfilled longings or as a reminder that you don't have what you want, what if we as women took up a different mantra?
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
What would change if we truly rejoiced with those who have reasons to rejoice all the while knowing that there will be times of mourning for them as well? What if we wept with those who are hurting and celebrated with them when they were given the desires of their hearts?
When we stop making life about us, we can find ways to rejoice AND to mourn with others. The beautiful thing that happens when we are able to do this is that we will have others who will do the same for us. I believe that when our loving God sees this, he rejoices with His children.
So my prayer for all of us on this day is that we would truly know the love that God has for us. I pray that we would rest in that love and not try to find it anywhere else. I pray that we would work hard at showing love to others on this day and every day.
And I pray that for all of us, it would truly be a Happy Valentine's Day!