I lean my head back against the patio chair and let the sun kiss my face. Its warmth floods my body and my shoulders relax after a week of stress. My eyes flutter shut and the nearby cardinal whistles his call, lulling me to stillness.
If only I could bottle this and take it everywhere.
“Excuse me, are you Darlene?”
I bolt out of my dream world and straighten. Shielding my eyes from the sun’s glare, I peer at the woman inquiring. Dressed in a plain brown dress, her lanky body towers over me. Her hair is hidden beneath a floral printed scarf accenting her wide set brown eyes. Leah. The one often referred to as the unattractive sister.
I stand and extend my hand. “Yes, nice to meet you, Leah.”
The Patriarch’s wife smiles and returns the gesture.
I suck in a breath. Her face beams and turns her weak eyes to sparkling gems, radiating joy.
Why didn’t Jacob see this woman’s inward beauty? It’s so evident.
I move my purse from the extra chair. “Have a seat. Hope you don’t mind that I tape our session. Just makes it easier to take notes.”
“Not at all.”
I arrange my notes and press play.
“Tell me a little about yourself. What was your childhood like?”
She wrings her hands as if perhaps trying to eliminate memories. “Hard in many ways.”
“What do you mean?”
“I helped my mom around the house and in the fields from sun up to sun down. It was hard work and I was the oldest, so it was my responsibility.”
“Rachel didn’t help?”
She averts her gaze to the young child at the nearest table. “She only had to learn how to sew, cook, and fetch water. Big deal.”
“She was the pretty one. Had to learn all the wifely duties so she would catch herself a handsome man.”
“You didn’t get along from the beginning?”
Leah’s eyes darken and she fiddles with the menu. “I lived in her shadow all my life. It was Rachel this, Rachel that. Sickening.”
Her eyebrows furrow as the annoyance registers on her face after all these years.
“Why did you go along with your father’s plan of tricking Jacob? Couldn’t you have stopped it?”
She sighs. “No, you don’t know my father. He was a stubborn one. I went along with it for a number of reasons. Revenge after years of being runner up. I know, I know. That’s wrong and I’ve since asked forgiveness from my Lord.” She pushes the scarf further onto her forehead, letting a muddy brown curl escape. “Also because I secretly fell in love with Jacob. I knew he didn’t love me, but when father told me of his plan, I obeyed willingly. I thought Jacob would grow to love me one day.”
The waitress approaches our table, asking for our orders. We each choose a rhubarb muffin and vanilla latte.
I check my notes for my next question. “It must have been hard for you to watch him with Rachel. How did you manage your feelings?”
“I poured my heart into doing everything for my husband, hoping to win his affection.”
“Did it work?”
“Unfortunately, Jacob only had eyes for the beautiful Rachel, not the ugly duckling of the family.” Tears pool, threatening to spill, but she wipes them away.
I squeeze her hand. “God looks at our inward beauty. That’s what counts.”
“I know that now, but it was hard to accept back then.”
I nod, acknowledging her hurt and remembering my own insecurities. I push them away and check my notes for what I want to talk about next. “God blessed you with many children.”
“They were my saving grace and what brought me back to my Lord. He heard my cries.”
“That was evident in the naming of your fourth son, Judah.”
“Yes, I will praise Him. I learned to pour my heart out to God. He listened to all my grief. Of what I didn’t have, and He helped me to accept me for who I am.”
Her eyes brighten. “And then, guess what He did?”
“He used my precious Judah to be a descendant of Jesus, the Messiah!”
I whistle and lean back in my chair. “You’re right! I’d forgotten that. Wow. God is good, isn’t He?”
“Yes. He took this ugly duckling, used her for a specific purpose, and made her whole.”
Her story reminds me of how God blesses each of us with different gifts and uses them for His glory. Leah may not have won Jacob’s love, but she bore the child who would one day lead to our Savior. His perfect plan turned out exactly how it should.
I search her face for glimpses of the child whose name meant “Wild Cow,” but only see a woman changed by God’s grace. A woman who spent years living in her sister’s beautiful shadow, but emerged from behind it as a white swan. One whose beauty shone from the inside out—the way it should be.
God made Leah in His image. He made us the same.
Beautifully and wonderfully made.
There are NO runners up.
Can you relate to Leah? Have you ever felt like the ugly duckling? How did you get past it? Share your story. I would love to hear from you.
Genesis 1:27 (NASB)
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.