Just because Eve’s Sisters has already been published, that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped seeing parallels between the lives of the women of the Bible and the lives of the women who live today. Then and now, we grapple with relationship challenges, let fear hold us back, and experience esteem issues. I was thinking of these and other issues this morning as I reflected on a couple of recent conversations that I had with my husband.
We were on the beach early one morning while the day was still fresh and full of promise. The strand was practically deserted, and I felt happy to have it to ourselves, knowing that within a couple of hours, the landscape would be totally different. I took pictures of sea birds wolfing down their breakfast, and unknownst to me, my husband was busy snapping a couple of pictures of me.
When he sauntered over with his iPhone and showed the pictures to me, like most women, I became a little self-critical and said, “I look so chunky!”
“I think it’s just the bathing suit you’re wearing,” he replied.
“Huh? So you really think I look fat?” I asked.
“That’s not what I said. I said the bathing suit makes you look a little, well, bigger than you really are.”
Feeling something between irritation and anger, I stomped off in the direction of the boardwalk. Men!
I’ve never had serious esteem issues. Growing up with a sister who’s ten times smarter than I am, one brother who’s funny and interesting, and another who’s the prince, I learned early in life to find my niche. My parents found something to love about all of us, and despite the fact that I’m not super smart, funny, musical, athletic, or beautiful, I never felt inadequate to my sisters or brothers. The beach incident has me thinking about people who aren’t so fortunate, people whose parents made them feel homely, dumb, awkward, backwards, or clumsy.
This brings me to the story of Leah and Rachel. Just like the women of today, women in the Bible had esteem issues too. Though faithful and hardworking, Leah was second in her husband’s affections. What was her home life like as a child? Was she compared to Rachel in an unfavorable way? Was she told that looks aren’t everything and that beauty is only skin deep? We don’t know what messages she got from her parents. We only know that Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah first and that she knew from the “get-go” that he loved Rachel more.
Leah bore six of Jacob’s sons and his daughter Dinah, and still he preferred the beautiful Rachel. How must that have felt? How did Leah deal with it? When I think of Leah’s many sterling traits, conscientiousness tops the list. Because of the time and place in which she lived, she was probably busy from dawn to dusk just taking care of business, business like making sure all the members of her household had what they needed to survive. I’m wondering if Leah was too involved with her duties to feel “less than.”
Fast forward a few thousand years, and there’s yours truly, a wife who’s been told (in so many words) that she looks a little chunky in a black (a color believed to be slimming) bathing suit. A couple of days after the beach morning comment, I told my husband that I’d figured out why I no longer looked so scary in the mornings. “I can’t see as well,” I said.
I continued, “What I’m saying is that all of the little blemishes and stuff aren’t so obvious anymore, at least not to me.”
“Listen,” he said, giving me a hug, “You look better first thing in the morning than half the people in Wal-Mart do in the middle of the afternoon.”
With that, he went off to play golf, leaving me to ponder the “compliment.” Did it mean that I looked worse than the other half?
I know him and I know that he doesn’t have a hateful, spiteful, sarcastic bone in his body. He meant the comment as a compliment, but as a woman, I’m likely to turn things upside down and inside out trying to figure out the true meaning when in fact, there isn’t anything deep or hidden there.
Women of all ages, shapes, and sizes occasionally have moments of self-doubt. So do little girls! We all want to be reassured of our value. It’s not enough to be the mother of six of the heads of the tribes of Israel. Nor is it enough to look better than half of the people in Wal-Mart in the middle of the afternoon. We want to be loved, cherished, and valued too!