“Bury me with… Leah.” -Jacob, Genesis 49:29-31
“The primary problem is… learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.” -Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Ethics, Duke University
Married to a Stranger
It’s impossible to know what your spouse will be like tomorrow, or next year, or next decade. Because life will change him, or her. Finishing school changes him. Age changes her. The hirings, and firings, and battles at work change him. Where she lives changes her. A loved one dying changes her. Having kids changes him. You can’t really know who you will be married to, in the future, because they’ll change.
It’s inevitable: at some point in your marriage, you’ll find you’re married to a stranger. It happens to every one of us.
It happened to Jacob right away. You know the story. Jacob worked for Laban for seven years so he could have the hand of his daughter Rachel in marriage. She was physically beautiful and the girl of his dreams. Rachel was worth every drop of sweat, every hour in the hot sun, every long day of toil, year in and year out he worked, until, finally, after seven years, the time came and Laban had to pay up. Jacob was beside himself with anticipation. He entered the tent of his bride on their wedding night, but, the next morning he woke up next to Leah. He was livid. What happened was, Laban wanted to marry off his oldest daughter Leah, but he had a problem, Leah was lacking in physical beauty. So, Laban snuck her in there, in place of Rachel–bait and switch.
Jacob found himself married to a stranger. He would have to work another seven years before he was permitted to marry Rachel. (Genesis Chapter 29)
Why’d You Choose Who You Chose to Marry?
Why did you choose her, or him? Did you think you found your soul mate? Were you looking for fulfillment? Were you hoping for a person who would help you live out your dreams? If you were, when that day comes, the day you wake up next to the stranger, and you realize just how much of your time, and energy, and focus you’ll have to invest in this other person, just to make your marriage work–you’ll feel cheated. You’ll feel as though someone pulled the rug out from under you. You’ll feel you have been victimized by a bait and switch maneuver.
You’ll feel the same feelings Jacob felt. You’ll feel like you married the wrong person.
But What If…
But what if there was another way. Imagine with me you knew she would someday become a stranger. What if you expected he would someday be unrecognizable. But, you also had a mutual understanding that the purpose of your marriage would be growth. What if you had a common point of reference, a common anchor, a common mainstay in Christ. What if the purpose of your marriage was for you, your spouse, and God to walk God’s path together. What if you both wanted your marriage to be about helping each other to let Jesus Christ live in you, and to live his life out through you? If you did that, then on that day, when you wake up next to the stranger, you’ll willingly, and enthusiastically, go to work, on your marriage–even if it takes another seven years, so to speak.
Jacob and His Stranger
In Genesis 49, we see Jacob, at the very end of his life, giving final instructions concerning where he wanted to be buried. And he asked to be buried next to Leah, not Rachel. Nor did he ask to make arrangements to move Rachel’s remains which were near Bethlehem, to the family burial site near Mamre in Canaan. Joseph makes this very request concerning his own remains, in the next chapter. (Genesis 50:25, Exodus 13:19)
For a time Jacob loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. But he hung in there anyway. And maybe one of the reasons he chose to be buried with Leah is because it was Leah, not Rachel, who gave Jacob more sons in the end. And before it was over, Leah even gave birth to Judah, from whose line the Messiah would come.
Your Future Spouse
What if Jacob had left Leah? What if she never had the opportunity to bear his sons? What if there never was a line of Judah? (I don’t like to think about that one) You see, in order for Jacob to enjoy and appreciate Leah, he had to hang in there. Instead of dumping her, he stayed with her, he supported her, he helped her to become the woman who would bear him six sons. He helped her to become the woman who would bring to the world the line of the Messiah.
If you leave, you’ll never see the future version of your spouse in the way Jacob saw Leah. And guess what? If you were to leave, and you found someone new, it’s just a matter of time before that person too would become a stranger. And the whole cycle would start over again.
The only way you’re going to see your husband or wife in the same way Jacob saw Leah is to stick with him, or her.
Your Future Groom
In scripture God calls us the bride of Christ, which of course makes him our groom. And he sees every fault, and flaw, and sin, and dark thought inside of you, and inside of me. Yet he forgives us. Even though we fall short, over and over again, he forgives us. Even the worst we have done in our lives, he forgives. He died for those faults, and flaws, and sins. Having received such forgiveness, find it in your heart to forgive your wife, or your husband. (see Matthew 18:35)
Jesus hasn’t called it quits with you.
Stay with him.
Stay with her.
Stay with your spouse.
Hang in there and the day will come when you see your spouse like Jacob saw Leah.
And like Jesus sees you.
[Image via: Funky64 – Creative Commons]