By Terry Wilson
Genesis 30:14 Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15 But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” 16 When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. 17 God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has given me my [k]wages because I gave my maid to my husband.” So she named him Issachar. 19 Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. 20 Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband [l]will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. 21 Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. 23 So she conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” 24 She named him Joseph, saying, “May the Lord [m]give me another son.”
I was expecting to meet Jesus in places I didn't expect --
I just didn't expect it to be so soon. I’d boldly read the words to Nicole Nordeman’s song Dear Me when I closed the Sunday gathering … “And you can not imagine all the places you’ll see Jesus… But you’ll find him everywhere you thought He wasn't supposed to go… ”
I’d had the song on repeat for days now and it was messing with me in ways that only God can do.
When our Monday night yoga session began and the leader said “Let's set our intention for our practice tonight… repeat this after me…
I have enough.
I do enough.
I am enough.
I hadn't imagined I’d meet Him there…but there He was…
In yoga, as in life, I never feel like enough. Yoga people are mostly long. And lean. And...stretchy. And then there's me. I’m 5’4 on my tiptoes and I am the tallest of all the little Italian mammas in my family that have come before me.
I am the opposite of long and lean. I usually feel like the worst student in the class, and I fight that not enough feeling every session. As in yoga, so in life and
I have enough…
I do enough …
I am enough…
is the opposite of the internal monologue of my life these days.
I’ll Have What She Has
I had been entrenched in the story of Rachel and Leah for weeks. If I had another life I'd be an Old Testament scholar. I’d have that crazy Christopher Lloyd Back to the Future look in my eyes and let my hair go grey and wild and I’d just sit in the middle of a pile of Jewish history books and Old Testament Bible commentaries all day every day. Occasionally I’d come up for air, but books written by ancient dead guys are my jam.
You might remember the beginning of the crazy story I mentioned above… Boy meets girl…Boy falls in love with girl….Boy asks girl’s dad to marry girl….Dad says yes if you work for me for 7 years…Boy works seven years and it is finally the big day…And boy wakes up the next morning and discovers boy married girl’s sister…Boy complains and girl’s dad says, Dude that’s not the way we do things here.You don't get to marry the younger sister before the older sister gets married,but I’ll throw her into the deal too if you work for me another 7 years…
And because he was crazy in love with the girl boy says yes…And they lived happily ever after…
Well, no, actually. They didn’t. In fact, it was pretty much a mess…
After the weddings (plural) it just got worse…It was He loves you more (and he did)…She’s got more kids than me (and she did). Here take my handmaiden (and they both had handmaiden’s...we can’t even go there) and have kids…and he did….
In the Midrash (the word the Rabbis used for what we might call a commentary on the text), it actually suggests that Rachel did not want to see her sister humiliated and so she might have helped her marry Jacob. That maybe they were not always enemies as the story seems to suggest. Could the story we read, then, be Rachel and Leah reverting to their worst — not their best — selves?
I’ve been there. How about you?
Leah has 4 sons, but it didn’t seem to matter how many she had — she was still never enough, in her eyes or in Jacob’s. (There’s a word for guys like this…)
And then there’s Rachel. The text tells us Jacob loved Rachel…but she didn't have any kids — and so she was not enough.
So Leah can have kids, but she can not have Jacob. Rachel has Jacob but can not have kids. Each of these women feel as if what they have is not enough. Each of them want what the other has. And this is just messing with everything.
This brings us to the mandrakes, which were thought to pack a fertility punch.
First born Reuben (his name means, the-Lord-has-seen-me-and-now-my- husband-will-love me) son brings his mom mandrakes because, after all, what does a woman who doesn't feel like enough and has stopped having sons (the thing that makes her feel like enough) need? More sons of course. Leah had this incessant need to prove herself and win Jacob’s love, and the only way she knew how was to have more kids.
Did we mention this is not really working for her ?
Then there was Rachel, deeply loved by Jacob, but that did not make her feel like enough.She needed children.She had what Leah wanted — Jacob’s love — but no kids, and that was not enough.
In its own way, their culture pitted these two sisters against each other. Sisters through whom together the whole earth was going to be blessed — but somehow they had lost sight of that.
The story gets a little strange here … Rachel asks Leah for the mandrakes and Leah says,Isn't it enough that you have Jacob?I’ve got kids and that’s all I've got that makes me enough so i need more…but now you want that too!
And then this: Rachel says to Leah Take Jacob-- he is yours knowing that Leah will probably have another kid (the one thing Rachel wanted).. Leah says Here take the mandrakes! even though she fears that if Rachel has a kid, its all over for her and Jacob will never love her.
Could it be possible that Rachel and Leah finally woke up and said, What are we doing? We are sisters! Is it possible that they had a little bit of compassion for each other? Maybe the conversation went a little like, Look at us? We are supposed to support and encourage each other and we are fighting over a guy… a guy…and kids….What is wrong with us???
Rachel finally has a son, and what does she do? She says, Finally the Lord has taken away my shame( which is that feeling that you are just never enough) and then named him Joseph — which means, Lord could you just give me another son?
Do you see what this sickness of not enough that we humans have does? It doesn't stop…We are never enough!
Rachel finally has a son -- the one thing she has been waiting for — and all she can think of is having another? In the end, she died bearing Benjamin, that other son.
This endless cycle of shame and just a little more... if i could just have this one more thing…do this one more thing…be this one more thing…maybe then I’ll be enough. It kills us.
Certainly there was a promise and plan for these sons,but how could anyone see it with all that baggage? Every name of every boy was a testament to their mom’s quest for enough… How did they respond?…Let’s just say if you know anything about family dynamics it’s not really surprising that Rachel’s son Joseph ended up in a ditch…
The reality is each of the sons were a gift from God. The sisters both had their place.They both had and were enough. Together they are revered in the writings of the Rabbis. The Midrash portrays them as two beams of a house that stretches from one end of the world to the other.
Scripture tells us that Rachel was more than enough. In Jeremiah, we see that the road Rachel was buried on was later traveled by all of her people during the exile. And each of these people were her descendants. (Jer31:15-17)
Everyone’s children were Rachel's children.She really was enough, and to this day in Israel Rachel's tomb is still a place of prayer for mothers everywhere.
Scripture also tells us that in the end, Leah was buried next to Jacob for eternity.(Gen 49:31) In the Jewish writings, she is honored, and through her lineage there was born many years later a Son who would turn the world upside down.
I am a counselor/ life coach and I listen to people’s secrets for a living. I can tell you a secret about us as women:it doesn't matter who we are — we all live in this place of not feeling like enough.
Of feeling like everyone else is getting the better deal —
or is thinner or smarter or prettier than we are.
And somehow we hide this deep heart wound. Rather than speak it out we let it pit us against each other.
The culture in which Rachel and Leah lived pitted them against each other. Their view of God pitted them against each other.
We do the same thing, don’t we?
Whatever it is. I'm not enough and that thing that other person has…that would do it… that would make me feel like enough…
It’s like you died and purgatory is middle school.
I am going to totally out myself here I am a total introvert. An INFP introvert.I’m okay with deep conversation. I’m even okay standing up and speaking in front of lots of people, as long as I’m in my element with my people... But put me in a group of people I don't know, especially if they are somewhat famous or write books or are very competent or worse yet -- skinny? I am in middle school all over again.
Remember middle school? That awkward…goofy …chubby…did i mention awkward? place you never want to go back to days? Yeah, I do too.
A few years ago I went to Rwanda with that exact group of people that I didn't know. There she was: the Yoda of trauma counseling, who has written some of the best books I've ever read. I have so much respect for her, and whenever I respect and look up to someone I’m just awkward and always stick my foot in my mouth. Welcome to my world.
There was another woman who wrote books that people all over the world were using in our field about trauma healing .And there I was with the book writers and the counselors and the thin and beautiful and not one person as awkward as me.I could feel myself get very small, like I was back in middle school. And God and I were having a conversation about this,because listen, I am just way too old for this.
On one of our last stops, our rooms were shifted.
I was walking down the path with a one of the women; she was classy and smart, and there on the red clay roads of Rwanda dressed to the nines, and I was still trying to figure out whether business casual meant black jeans or dark wash (it meant dresses, of which I have none).
She had learned that she was going to be put in a room with one of the authors. She turned and looked at me, eyes wide in panic, and said, “Can I stay with you?”
Later on, she thanked me and said, “I'm so intimidated by famous people who write books.” I was shocked! ME TOO! I said, and she was surprised. “No way!” she said.I told her all about my ongoing conversation with God about middle school and purgatory and we talked and laughed all night..
ME TOO. There is a certain power in those words. ME TOO was when I realized that we are not alone.
And here’s the other thing --this was all me. That group of people were the kindest, most real bunch of book writing, competent, classy famous counseling people I know. My not enough was all in my head.
I learned something that day that i continually have to remind myself...We are all in the same boat;we are all Rachel and Leah looking desperately for a place we think is all there but just as soon as we arrive it becomes a bit like watching the last season of Lost…the island shifts and you have no idea where you are anymore.
What if just for today, instead of comparing ourselves, instead of fighting over our not enough's, maybe we can listen deeply to the voice of God in our story and in our hearts and set our intention with these words from a very wise teacher…
Breathe deeply and repeat slowly after me...
You have enough…
You do enough…
You are enough…
Terry Wilson stays awake at night thinking of ways to creatively communicate the story of The God Who Changes Everything to wounded, hurting people. She is the Lead Cultivator at Hopesprings Community of Faith in Bangor,PA and Program Director at Bloom Bangor, a restorative community for women starting over from lives of addiction and abuse.
She spent 3 years at Biblical Theological Seminary reading lots of books by ancient dead guys.She also completed Biblical's Global Trauma and Recovery Institute.
She is a self proclaimed read-a-holic and if pressed will tell you that reading is her super power. She's been married to Walter for 32 years and they have three grown kids,a son and daughter in law ,two dogs, two cats and occasionally a few stray cats or kids.
They all live together on a farm in Mt. Bethel , Pa.
You can also find her at www.terrywilson.co