“And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben,* for she said, “Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me”
In today’s reading in Genesis (ch. 29), we have the story of the birth of Jacob’s first four sons and the rivalry between his two wives, the two daughters of Laban, Leah and Rachel. It is the sad account of a bitter rivalry in which each of these women were vying for the love of their husband Jacob, who himself lived an empty life, having never had his father’s love. When he finally laid eyes on Rachel he concluded that by marrying her his life would now have meaning.
Tim Keller says, “Jacob’s life is that of an addict. There are many ways that romantic love can function as a kind of drug to help us escape the reality of our lives” (Counterfeit Gods, pg. 33). Neither Jacob nor Leah or Rachel have any concept of the love of God, and are therefore looking for a “savior” to save them from their mundane existences. Jacob thought marrying Rachel was the answer to finding meaning in his life. Leah and Rachel each think that having children will get their husband Jacob to love them and they would thus be satisfied. None of them have learned the most foundational lesson to human living—that it is only by knowing and receiving the love that God has for us that can we ever hope to be delivered from the functional “saviors” we run to satisfy the emptiness of our souls.
Think of the many things we run to in order to find happiness and satisfaction. Most of the time people are our idols of choice. We are persuaded that if we had more friends or a better spouse or a better church or someone to understand us life would be satisfying and worth living. When people don’t live up to our expectations (they seldom do) we castigate them in our hearts (or sometimes to their faces) and blame them for our unhappiness. But seldom do we realize that we have put people or things in the place of God. No wonder so many marriages implode; partners are looking to human beings to provide what can only come from God.
Jude exhorts us to “keep ourselves in the love of God.” Our soul operates by a hidden law that it is attracted to love. When a person is “rooted and grounded in love” he or she is secure and in need of nothing else. Having people like us or approve of us is certainly nice, but such a person is not shipwrecked if they are misunderstood or disliked or castigated. And such love is ours in the Gospel! It is given unconditionally, being the nature of God Himself. Paul speaks of “knowing the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” When a soul knows experientially such love it rests secure and undisturbed. We should let nothing hinder our full understanding and participation of that love. How else could we be able to “love our enemies” if not for the fact that we who were enemies of God have now become the objects of his love? Wonder of wonders!