On April 16th, 2015, the Lord gave me a new name. And I didn’t want it. “You are Leah,” He said. I wanted to pretend like I didn’t hear Him. I’ve longed for Him to rename me like He has done with a few of my friends, but that’s not the name I wanted. Their names translate into beautiful truths like “My delight is in her” or “My beloved one,” but Leah? No. I didn’t want to be Leah.
Leah means “wearied one.”
I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to claim that. Tired tears rolled down my cheeks, but I pretended like they weren’t there. I wanted to rest in my denial, but I couldn’t, not anymore. There’s no rest in pretending. And, as it turns out, I’ve been pretending for a long time. So, weary? Yes. I am. But, it wasn’t until the God who told the stars to exist renamed me that I finally understood the root of the fatigue in my soul.
I’ve always known a little about Leah. She was the older sister to Rachel, given away to Jacob as a trick. You see, he wanted to marry Rachel, the beautiful sister, but instead found that he had been deceived into marrying the ugly one. He worked for an additional seven years so that he could finally be with the one he originally longed for, and it happened. They ended up together, too. And that’s all I really knew of the story. I thought Leah was insignificant in light of her younger sister, so I never paid much attention to her. Until now, that is. Now that I’ve been told I, too, am Leah.
For the past few days, I’ve been dealing with the hurt that accompanied the enlightenment of my new name. “Did You really name me after the ugly sister?” I whimpered. “Are my attempts to convince myself that I’m pretty totally futile? Are You admitting that I am not beautiful?” Again, with the tired tears. My whole life, I have struggled with believing that I am beautiful. Don’t all girls want to be? My younger sister is breathtaking and I’ve always been painfully aware of her beauty. In high school, my closest friends were gorgeous, popular, and desired. To be real, I was none of these. I was just there–present, but not seen. For my college years, I’ve been surrounded by powerful, stunning women of the Lord. They are all physically beautiful. “Fierce,” I sometimes say. Every eye is on them when we walk into a room. I see the way they’re noticed for their beauty. I see the way that I am not. Of course, it would be easy to read this and decide it’s being written out of self-pity or with an ulterior motive to receive compliments. You can choose to believe that’s why I’m writing this, if you want. But, for the Leahs that may be reading this, I know this resonates with you, deeply. So, this is for you. For us.
Since being given a new name, I’ve been doing an in-depth study on the biblical person of Leah. I had to know why this is who the Lord named me after; why I am so weary. So, starting from the beginning [Genesis 29:15-35], we see that, though Leah had delicate, or tender, eyes, Rachel was indeed “more beautiful of form and appearance.” Her beauty drew Jacob to her, but he was tricked into marrying Leah and angry because of it. He did not want or love her. He wanted the beautiful sister. For me, I can so easily imagine how unwanted Leah must have felt. I can see it now, the sisters transitioning into young women and the increasing awareness that Rachel was so much prettier. To me, it makes sense that Leah would use this reality to become a woman that strives and works hard to be loved like her sister was. And that’s what she did. In verses 31 & 32, it’s written that the Lord opened Leah’s womb for she was unloved by Jacob. She gives birth to a son and believes that, surely, her husband will love her now. But, after having another son and yet another, we see that Leah is still hoping Jacob will love her, implying that her striving has been in vain–he, still, does not want her.
Reading all of this, I suddenly understood the weariness. For years and years and years, I have worked towards becoming like the people around me. For every moment I felt inadequate, I would counter that with a moment of striving. I would laugh like her, act interested in the things that interested him, speak up when I should have been quiet, and made myself noticeable so I wouldn’t be overlooked. If I can’t make myself more beautiful, I will make sure I am well-liked. But, I am just tired. My bones ache. My heart is trembling from the exhaustion of my pointless pursuit. Leah? She was not physically beautiful, no. She was unloved because of it. But there’s more to her story. Despite her not being wanted, she was fiercely loyal and fought for her marriage. She knew Jacob did not love her, but she was very aware of Who did. “The Lord has looked upon my affliction… He has heard that I am unloved… Now I will praise the Lord.” Leah was a woman who had her eyes fixed on the God who gave her purpose. She stopped striving for love and took a position of praise, instead.
I am Leah, and it hurts less now. Maybe you’re Leah, too. That’s good. Let’s find ourselves on our knees with thankfulness because of it. We are seen and known and loved by the One who our eyes should be fixed on. Wearied ones, take heart. Sit down. Breathe in, breathe out. We don’t have to strive. You don’t have to strive. I don’t have to strive. With hearts secured by His love, we can finally rest.