Gratitude

14 11 2011

A bunch of my friends on facebook are daily making their statuses something they are grateful for. For whatever reason, I did not join that bandwagon. Probably because I’m typically ungrateful. So here is my attempt at getting up to speed with them. A list of 14 things I’m thankful for and why (in no particular order):

1. I’m thankful that I get to experience life in Barranquilla. It has been challenging and difficult at times, but I know I am the better for it.

2. I’m thankful for my mom and Billy. Without them. I definitely would not have survived my transition into life as a grown-up. They have been there for me emotionally, spiritually, and financially. I owe them an unpayable debt.

3. I’m thankful for my awesome sisters. All four of you mean more to me than I can express. I love that we can laugh together and that we can celebrate each others’ successes and support each other through the “failures.” I love you all!

4. I’m thankful for my mutt Abelard. He has been my little shadow for three years. It’s been a difficult few months without him and I’m sure he’ll have some trouble transitioning back into my care. But I love that crazy dog even when he poops in the house and eats things he shouldn’t and gnaws on my dresser. He makes everyday a little more interesting.

5. I’m thankful for my nieces and nephews. These kids light up my life. I’ve watched some of them grow from adorable little babies who just wanted to curl up on my chest and go to sleep to amazing young adults. And for the younger ones, I’m enjoying watching you grow and learn. All of you make life worth living. I’m so blessed to be your aunt.

6. I’m thankful for my brothers. Ryan, I have some great memories of when we were kids. I hope that we can make more now that we are adults. Jason, I’m so thankful that we were finally able to meet! It’s been a great two years getting to know you and your family. I love you!!

7. I’m thankful for Monica and Alvaro, my Colombian parents. I’m constantly amazed by their generosity and hospitality – not just to me, but to everyone that they encounter. May I learn to be that gracious.

8. I’m thankful for Divine Life. I’ve been a member of this particular community since the summer of 2004. This community has been there to support me during some of the darkest moments of my life. They have also been there to celebrate with me through my successes. I’ve learned more about grace and forgiveness and hope and love from you all than you will ever know. I miss you all and cannot wait to be back amongst you. (fingers crossed that you are missing me, too!)

9. I’m thankful for my dad. He and I are a lot alike in that we are both very hardheaded and stubborn. It is this that makes us argue so much. But I’m grateful that I get to hear his stories a hundred times and that we have a good relationship. It has taken many years on my part to get to this point, but I’m thankful that I won’t have any regrets about our relationship when all is said and done.

10. I’m thankful for Colombian style hotdogs. Seriously, they are delicious. I’m going to learn how to make them before I come home.

11. I’m thankful that I can at least understand some Spanish, even if I can’t speak it yet. It definitely helps that I can figure some things out on my own.

12. I’m thankful for the way God has provided for me to get to Colombia and while I’ve been here. I still need a few hundred dollars to get me home, thanks to a passport issue, but I’m confident that God will handle that.

13. I’m thankful for good friends. I’m thankful that I can laugh until I cry with you. I’m thankful that you forgive my stupidity and let me be myself. I’m thankful that you stuck with me when I was difficult to tolerate. I miss you all!!!!!!!

14. I’m thankful for Skype. Without it, I would be very limited with my contact home. I’m so grateful that anytime I’m homesick, I can call my family or friends and speak in English really fast!

So there you have it, up to date gratitude 🙂

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It Hurts Like a Billy-Oh

30 08 2011

This post is very personal.  It’s a bit more personal than I’m comfortable with, but I think that I should share it anyway because people want to know what this whole experience is like, not just the good parts.  Right?

This week was rough.  We’re talkin’ curl-up-in-the-fetal-position-cry-myself-to-sleep rough.

I was lonely.  Not the kind of lonely that made me want to go home.  Not the kind of lonely borne out of self-pity.  It was an entirely new kind of lonely.  It was isolation.  Yes, I have friends here.  Yes, I live with people who speak English.  Yes, I can call home whenever I want.

But I was still lonely.

Have you ever had an experience of loss (a break-up, death, end of a friendship, etc.) ?  Do you remember how it felt like something was literally ripping open your chest?  That’s what this felt like, except without the loss.

I emailed by pastor back home asking him to pray with me and for me.  I told him that I needed an English-speaking friend that was fully, 100% fluent that I could have an easy conversation with (perhaps even a thoughtful, deep conversation) or I was going to have a meltdown.  In typical Chris Green fashion, he encouraged me to embrace the isolation, to lean into God, and to not resent the process.

I’m trying. It’s not easy.  And I’m fairly certain I have some more time in this lonliness before I get the friend I so desperately want…if I get the friend.

Upon reflecting on this time, I was reminded of the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (part of The Chronicles of Narnia).  In the story, there is a character named Eustace.  Lewis writes, “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

He is not very likeable and he doesn’t try to be.  He resents the fact that he is in Narnia and that he is stuck on the ship, “The Dawn Treader,” against his will.  The crew lands on an island where a dragon lives. Eustace, in attempt to avoid work,  stumbles upon the dragon only to discover that it is dying.  He decides to tell everyone that he killed the dragon.

Now, as we all know, dragons are hoarders of treasure.

With the dragon dead, Eustace finds that he is surrounded by all sorts of gold and diamonds and jewels.  He finds a golden bracelet and puts it as high on his arm as he can so that it won’t come off.  Then he falls asleep.  When he wakes, he discovers that he has turned into a dragon overnight.  This discovery of his dragoned self humbles Eustace and he seeks to make amends with the crew for his behaviour, but that’s difficult since he’s a dragon that can’t talk. It seems that he is set to be a dragon forever now.

But then comes this beautiful scene. Aslan comes to Eustace and tells him to unrobe.  Eustace tries to remove the dragon skin several times, but each time he finds that he is just as much a dragon as he was before.  Finally, Aslan helps him.  The way to remove the dragon skin is deep, painful clawing into the flesh.

This is how Eustace describes it:

“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep and I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”

All that to say: If I need to be undragoned, so be it.  It hurts like a billy-oh, but it is necessary.  I cannot undragon myself.  If this is part of the process, I welcome it.  I don’t want to be a dragon anymore.





The Sacraments

7 08 2011

I’ve been going to church here now for basically a month. Sometimes I have a translator, but mostly I do not. I know some of the praise and worship songs in English. I try to sing along to those, but it is difficult singing in English when they are singing in Spanish. And everyone greets everyone with a kiss on the cheek. I forget sometimes and there’s an awkward half hand-shake half kiss between me and some poor Colombian citizen who was unfortunate enough to try to greet me.

Most of the time I feel very out-of-place and totally confused.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do enjoy it. I try really hard to listen to the words of the songs and sermon. I pray that I will pick up on the gist of what is going on. So far, I am failing. But I have ample opportunity to try again and again.

But today, for the first time, I understood what was happening.  We took communion together.  It was a very powerful moment for me.  Yes, I’ve taken communion in other churches and in another country before, but it was not this meaningful for me.  I noticed my excitement for understanding something in the service.  Then I realized it was an excitement for the Meal.  I remembered something my pastor Chris back home said once: Any Christian at any time should be able to go to a service and know it is Christian by this meal.  Or something like that.

This meal transcends the awkwardness of being a gringa in a Latin church.  It made me a part of this community in ways that I will never understand.  It was the first time that I wasn’t just following someone else’s lead (sit down, stand up, pray, sing, etc.).  I was following the same lead as everyone else. I was responding to the invitation, “Come and eat.”

Then, there were three baptisms.  It was very moving to watch these three officially enter into the family, especially considering my revelation during communion.

These Sacraments are what make me a part of this body, not my ability to speak Spanish or play guitar or any of that.  It was good to remember that.





Oh, how things change.

9 06 2011

It’s weird to think about how things have changed in my life in the last year. And how happy I am that they have, even though I fought the process every step of the way.  Let’s go back to 2010.

January 2010 was the first time I ever met my brother, sister (in-law), nieces, and nephew.  It seems strange that it hasn’t even been 2 years since we made contact.  It is like we didn’t miss out on anything.  They are my family and I’m constantly amazed at how unforced the developing of our relationships have been.  God really did know the timing for us to meet. 

Then in February I started dating this guy (for the sake of this blog, let’s call him Monty).  Monty and I had a long distance relationship and it had its ups and downs, but, overall, it was a great experience for me.  I don’t regret dating him and I look back on our time together with fondness.  Monty is a good man.  But our lives were going in different directions.  He has a daughter and what’s best for her trumped what’s best for “us” any day of the week – and rightfully so.  I could never ask him to choose between us.  Finishing my education is non-negotiable.  And that could take me anywhere.  One of us would have had to give up on something  that is very important to us – and we both felt like that was only going to breed resentment if we tried to continue our relationship.  So we ended it, on good terms.   I don’t talk to Monty much anymore.  He’s seeing someone else now and they seem very happy together.  And I’m moving to South America – something that couldn’t have happened if we had stayed together.

In August, my youngest nephew was born.  Landon Rhone 🙂  Oh, how I love that baby.  I was totally shocked when my sister said she was pregnant, but this precious little boy has definitely brought us closer as sisters.  I do hope I get to see him before I move since I’ll be in South America on his first birthday.  I guess I’ll just have to get him something awesome from Colombia as a gift.

In October, I was unemployed for a month.  That was actually not that scary.  My bills were all paid and I saw people being generous with me all the time.  Unemployment, though seemingly scary, ended up being a time of prosperity and encouragement for me.  I’m so glad I went through that.

Last November, I had to move. I was living in a townhouse owned by some friends of mine.  I had told them when I moved in that if they ever found a buyer to just sell the place.  The sold it in November.  So, I moved to the highlands – where I currently reside. 

Since my unemployment and my move, my budget has been getting steadily more restrictive.  I have felt like every time I pay a bill, I was using borrowed money.  I have felt trapped by my financial obligations and I have been praying for months for a way out of them.  I didn’t expect it to be Colombia as the answer, but I’ll take it 🙂

Then, sometime in the fall, we found out my oldest neice was pregnant.  She was very young – very.  It was world shattering at the time.  I had no idea how to respond.  I remember adamantly refusing to call it a “mistake.”  I never want to think of my precious little Addilynn coming into this world as a mistake.  She was a surprise, for sure, but no mistake.  Our family had a hard time adjusting to this new development, and an even harder time learning how to respond to it.  But, despite Kendra’s age, she’s handled this parenting thing like a pro.  Addilynn is the best thing to happen to our family in a long time.  If she’s not one way that God intends to restore and heal my family from the things that try to destroy us, then I don’t know what is.  She is redemption. Period.

she is fat, also.

And through all of that, there was the thesis.  That nagging little assignment that was the difference between a degree or wasted energy.  I was convinced that God had good things in store for me when I finished.  Not because he was holding out on me, but because the thesis writing process was making me who I needed to be to receive the good things.  I was right.

A lot of other stuff took place last year, a lot of really painful things, a lot of really great things, a lot of really personal things that are just none of your business. 

When 2010 was over, I was ready for 2011.  I ended 2010 exhausted, broke, and very unhappy.  After the break up with Monty, the moving out, and the budget crisis, I felt hopeless and faithless.  Good thing my faithfulness has nothing to do with God’s faithfulness to me.  I remember talking to my pastor Chris and telling him I thought that my faith in breaking it off with Monty, quitting my job, and moving to a new place was going to be rewarded with a season of good things.  I was so mad at God for me being in a worse financial situation than before, by being alone, and by not giving me a job in a school like I had prayed for.  I was so sick of 2010 by the end of it! 

The first couple of months of 2011 didn’t really start out much better.  My budget didn’t change, my anxiety of doing it “alone” only increased, and I was still working insurance – not teaching, which is the dream. Where were my good things?  I’m glad I didn’t know then what I know now. 

I had to learn to trust others with my money.  I had to learn that living alone and being single does not mean I’m living this life “alone.”  I had to finish my thesis.  I had to learn the value of my family.  I had to recognize the things God has called me to and be willing to pursue them no matter the cost (i.e. ending things with Monty).  I had to learn to live on very little, trusting that God will provide for my needs – and trusting that if it’s not provided, it’s not a need. 

In short, I had to grow up.  Yes, there is a lot more growing to do.  But I am convinced that those lessons must be learned the hard way – only this time in Colombia.  Hopefully, I won’t fight them as much this time.  Hopefully, I will trust that God is in control even when I don’t understand the way it’s happening.

So, I’m moving to Colombia.  I’m excited, terrified, nervous, exhausted, happy, sad, and invigorated all at once.  It’s a weird place to be in.

Until next time…





“I have a dream”

18 01 2010

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3





Bouyancy

20 04 2009

Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.

I tried to keep quietly repeating,
No strength but yours,
but I couldn’t.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That’s how I hold your voice.

I am scrap wood thrown in your fire,
and quickly reduced to smoke.

I saw you and became empty.
This emptiness, more beautiful than existence,
it obliterates existence, and yet when it comes,
existence thrives and creates more existence!

The sky is blue. The world is a blind man
squatting on the road.

But whoever sees your emptiness
sees beyond blue and beyond the blind man.

A great soul hides like Muhammad, or Jesus,
moving through a crowd in a city
where no one knows him.

To praise is to praise
how one surrenders
to the emptiness.

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.
Praise, the ocean. What we say, little ship.

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where!
Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck
we could have. It’s a total waking up!

Why should we grieve that we’ve been sleeping?
It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been unconscious.

We’re groggy, but let the guilt go.
Feel the motions of tenderness
around you, the bouyancy.

-Rumi





III: Leah and Rachel

19 03 2009

1. Introduction

2. The Backdrop

3. Leah’s first four naming speeches

“Now the Lord saw that Leah was unloved” (sane’).  This word is used only seven times in Genesis.  Twice it is used in the Rebekah/Isaac narrative, twice referring to Leah, and three times referring to Joseph.  Based on the uses within the Joseph/brothers story[1], I suggest that the term does not necessarily mean rejected or unloved, though that may be part of it.   

In the Joseph narrative, the brothers “hate” Joseph.  He is arrogant and acting as if he were the oldest of the sons.  They first hate him when they see that Jacob loves him more (37:4), they hate him more when Joseph tells the brothers his dream (37:5), and they hate him even more when they realize that the dream means Joseph will have dominion over them (37:8). 

Within this context, at least, this word seems to mean more than an emotional response, though not completely separate from it.  Joseph is hated because he is a younger son acting as if he is the eldest.  He’s operating in a position that, at least in his brothers’ minds, does not belong to him. 

Taking this into consideration, the problem in the Leah/Jacob union is not Leah.  The problem is that Leah is not Rachel.  The problem, then, lies truly in Jacob.  Leah is the first wife, the chief wife.  She is also the wife that is producing offspring.  Jacob worked fourteen years for Rachel.  Rachel is the woman he wanted from the moment they met.  Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah.  It comes as no surprise that Jacob despises Leah since she is in the position Jacob wishes for Rachel. 

Whatever this meant for the couple sexually is unclear.  What the text does reveal about their marital relationship is two-fold. First, she bore him six children, presumably within the (second set of) seven years he was working for Laban to “earn” Rachel.  This indicates the fertility of Leah.  Secondly, Leah did not have the same control of Jacob’s sexual activity as Rachel did.  This is indicated in 30:15 when Rachel gives Leah permission to lie with Jacob (to which I will return). 

In Leviticus 12, the days of ritual uncleanness after the birth of a child are laid out for women based on the sex of the child.  It is unlikely that Jacob and the women would have practiced such strict guidelines, as this story is set in a time prior to the giving of the law.  Regardless, of the amount of time spent after the birth of one child and the conception of the next, it is evident that Leah spent very little of her first years of marriage without being pregnant (she had seven children in seven years!).  Leah’s perpetual pregnancies may be the cause of minimal sexual activity between the couple.  Genesis 30:9 says that “Leah saw that she stopped bearing,” but the text gives no indication that it is due to a sexual abstinence with Jacob.  What the text does indicate is that, regardless how many children Leah were to bear for Jacob, he would never satisfy Leah’s desire for him.  This is evident in the speeches that accompany the naming of her children.

There could be several reasons why Jacob did not rid himself of Leah.  Perhaps he was afraid of what Laban might do if he divorced her.  Perhaps he felt an obligation toward his kinswoman that would not allow him to forsake her completely.  Or perhaps he realized that she was the wife that would provide the children to carry on his lineage.  The text does not indicate any reason why Jacob did not divorce Leah.  In his setting, there was no Torah to define his actions.  There was something that kept Jacob bound to Leah, but whatever that something is, the author either takes it for granted or finds it to be of little import for the purpose of this narrative.

 

Leah is the first to become pregnant, and the narrative sets Leah’s fertility and rejection by Jacob in contrast with Rachel’s barrenness and favor.  “When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren” (29:31).  Leah bears four children consecutively in 29:31-35.  The first three naming speeches are all linked to her relationship with Jacob, and three of the four are connected to her belief in God. 

“Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, ‘because the Lord has looked on my affliction; surely now my husband will love me'” (29:32).  Reuben is her first-born.  His name literally means “see, a son.”  Her speech is two-fold.  She first acknowledges the favor that God has shown her.  God has indeed seen her affliction and allowed her to bring forth a son (see 29:31).  She concludes that since she has given Jacob his firstborn son, “surely now my husband will love me.”  The narrator quickly moves on to the conception and birth of Leah’s next son, which, though not explicitly stating it, assumes the paternal role of Jacob.[2]

“She conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also’; and she named him Simeon” (29:33). Leah’s naming of her and Jacob’s second son indicates that the birth of Reuben did not solve her problem as she thought it would.  “The name Simeon is associated with the term sm’, literally, ‘he who hears.’[3]”  Leah believes that God has heard that she is unloved, and has therefore given her Simeon also.  She does not mention Jacob in this speech, but he may be understood as the one that hates her.  Perhaps she views Simeon as a means of making up for the fact that she is hated, or as a means (as she hoped with Reuben) of gaining Jacob’s love.  The text is ambiguous at best.  Regardless of the way Leah interpreted the birth of Simeon, it was not enough to satisfy her longing for her husband, as is evident with the birth of her third child.

“Again she conceived and bore a son, and said ‘Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons’; therefore he was named Levi” (29:34). For the first time, Leah recognizes Jacob as a father.   She does not mention God in this speech, and it is the only one of her naming speeches for her own sons that does not.  Levi’s name is connected with the word yillaweh, which literally means “he will be joined[4].”  Leah is still not satisfied with her lot.  She has three children and boys at that, giving her a place in her society, but she does not have her husband’s love.

“She conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord’; therefore she named him Judah; then she ceased bearing” (29:35).  With the birth of her fourth child, Leah’s attitude seems to shift.  Her first three sons encouraged her hope that Jacob would love her, but there is no mention of her relationship with Jacob in this speech.  Leah simply says, “This time I will praise the Lord.”  Judah’s name has an “association with the term ‘odeh, literally ‘I will praise.’[5]”  There is no clear reason why she changes with the birth of Judah.  Perhaps she recognized that, despite being rejected by her husband, she was favored by God.  Or she may have, only momentarily, felt as though Jacob’s attitude toward her had changed.  Or she may have been grateful simply for having another son.  Whatever her reasoning, Leah is resolved, if not content, to praise God.  Rachel is another story.


[1] I will use this text as it deals with family relationships and not that of nations as in 24:60 with Rebekah.

[2] Joan Ross-Burstall. “Leah and Rachel: A Tale of Two Sisters,” Word and World Vol 14, no 2 (1994). pg. 169

[3] ibid., pg. 170

[4]Ibid., pg. 170

[5] Ibid., pg. 170