Sisters: A Christmas Story

 In Character, Faith, Family, Fred's Blog, People, Relationships, Scripture, Teaching, Uncategorized

Listen to “Sisters: A Christmas Story” by Fred Smith

 

I’ve been reading this week about the disaster of Sumner Redstone’s family. While Sumner built great business ventures in CBS and Viacom, his personal life and that of his entire family is a tale filled with betrayals of trust, conflicts of interest, lawsuits against each other, theft, shady ethics, deceit and greed that steadily consumed them. It is a dismal story played out in families from the beginning of time. It’s not Cain’s spontaneous and raging murder of his brother, Abel. It is the slow and measured killing of love over time. It is the story of sisters Rachel and Leah vying for the affection of Jacob.

From the beginning, Leah knows she is the pawn in the game between her father and Jacob. She’s the placeholder until Jacob can have the one he desires and not the one he was tricked into marrying. Family psychologists have told us that nothing destroys the home like the constant presence of smoldering tension. Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Every happy family is alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The ways of making each other unhappy are almost limitless and nothing could have been truer for this family. Jealousy, envy, resentment, and rivalry were not under the surface. Swords were always drawn. John Steinbeck wrote in “East of Eden”: “It’s awful not to be loved. It’s the worst thing in the world…It makes you mean, and violent, and cruel.”

But Leah found something she could do better than Rachel. She could have children one after the other. Even then, the sadness of her life is reflected in the names of her children and not only the names but the messages built into the names.

Reuben – “Surely my husband will love me now”
Simeon – “The Lord heard I am not loved”
Levi – “My husband will become attached to me”

So it goes for every son born to her. Every child was a constant reminder to her and the entire family that she was unloved, unwanted, and undesired by her husband.

But, something happens along the way in the middle of the child wars. Leah names her fourth son Judah. “This time I will praise the Lord.” It can also be translated as “God will lead”. It was no longer about her relationship with Jacob or the pain in her life. It was an expression of confidence and the birth of trust in her life.

The message of her life has changed. Not all at once because her circumstances have not changed, but her attitude towards them has. She is no longer the victim. The psychotherapist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Long before Frankl wrote that Leah experienced it. The foundation of her life had shifted.

Time goes by and it’s almost one hundred years until Leah’s name is mentioned again – at Jacob’s death in Egypt – and it is nearly a footnote unless you read it carefully. “Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were buried and there I buried Leah.” In other words, bury me with Leah. What a remarkable change from their first encounter and their first years together.“You’ve tricked me with this weak-eyed cow” has turned to “I want to be next to her forever.”

What must have happened between the two of them? What is the end result of the silent decades in Jacob’s life with Leah?

All the brothers and their families are together – all 70 them – brought there to Egypt by Rachel’s son, Joseph. They are at peace. There is no more manipulation, jealousy, or anger. They have become a family in spite of all their differences.

This is the remarkable story of a woman who outgrew her circumstances, her handicap, the unfairness of her life and how she patiently shaped one of the most difficult men in Scripture and generations coming afterward.

But there is one more thing to see because, ultimately, it is from her line – Judah – that Jesus is born. It is from the son named “God Will Lead.” And, Isaiah describes him like this:

”He wasn’t some handsome king. Nothing about the way he looked made him attractive to us. He was hated and rejected. His life was filled with sorrow.” (Isaiah 53:2)

Sound familiar?

But what a difference the descendant of the one who was rejected and not wanted has made. He is the long-expected Messiah – the joy of man’s desiring. Immanuel.

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Showing 18 comments
  • Avatar
    John Kelly
    Reply

    Merry CHRISTmas!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John. We have a whole dish of salt caramels that will make this the best Christmas yet.

  • Avatar
    Don Wills
    Reply

    Always enjoy reading what you write. Thx. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Don. The same to you and your fine family.

  • Avatar
    Nancy
    Reply

    This is the best commentary on Leah and Rachel that I have ever read. Thank you so much, Fred, for sharing it.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Nancy, for everything you do in this community! We are blessed to have you.

  • Avatar
    Howard
    Reply

    What’s worse, to me, is to be “loved” but not empowered and not given Significance, Dignity, and Identity. Young Males, especially, value Significance, Dignity, and Identity more than mere “Love.”

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Hopefully, love is never “mere” and never anything more than a saccharine emotion. Unfortunately, that is often what the world thinks we represent.

  • Avatar
    Amelia Proctor
    Reply

    I love this Fred! Great food for thought. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Well, Christmas is definitely the time for food! Thank you for taking the time to read it.

  • Avatar
    peter
    Reply

    Merry Christmas Fred
    What an Awesome reminder in these challenging days to forgive, embrace GOD’S love and see what HE has in store
    peace

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Peter. Yes, we need reminders…and patience!

  • Avatar
    Fonda Latham
    Reply

    A wonderful reminder of how God redeems the messes we make as humans.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Fonda. I know you see examples of this as well. For that, we are all grateful.

  • Avatar
    Clare Frist
    Reply

    Fred, you have outdone yourself. This is a masterful blog…one I plan to share with family and friends. I need to know one thing before I do, where is the wonderful painting from? Given the lack of explanation, I’m thinking it may be you, yourself, who painted it. Can it be?!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Well, maybe now is the time to give it a rest! Thank you for this encouragement. I hope you got the information about the painting I sent you.

  • Avatar
    Molly Greene
    Reply

    Great message for all of us and especially as we are in this Advent Season. Many years ago we heard a sermon that focused on a very similar topic: you can’t change your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them.

    Christmas Blessings,

    Molly

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Molly! Circumstances come and go – good and bad – but underneath are the everlasting arms!

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