Connections 01.03.2016: The Story of Love

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Genesis 29:15-30

I grew up on Disney princess movies, many of which had this plot: A girl lives with her father (or horrific stepmother) because her mother suffered some fatal accident or succumbed to sickness. She has her strengths and usually conquers an obstacle, but most often there’s a romantic song and the film ends with a beautiful wedding—or at least true love’s kiss. There isn’t much about what comes after the ceremony.

I’m tempted to claim that movies like this one fueled my desire to get married early and created the illusion of a fairytale relationship. But I think this desire started long before Walt Disney was born. On days when keeping my marriage together seems all but hopeless, I like to remember God’s words at the beginning: “It is not good for this person to be alone” (Ge 1:18). God’s first solution was to provide pets—as many as a person could possibly want. But people need more, so God gave us human partners. It’s not good for us to be alone. We desire a partner or a friend because we’re created to live intimately among other people.

Of course, into that simple pronouncement came loads of arguments, unequal yoking, jealousy, possessiveness, spite, contempt, abuse, greed, sexual immorality, and heartbreak. In our lesson text, Jacob’s uncle uses his infatuation to suck away fourteen years of his life, seven of which are spent with the sister of his beloved. Poor Jacob, to be so deceived. Poor Rachel, to be the one who must wait. Poor Leah, to be the unwanted sister. It’s a story worthy of any romantic drama these days—what a love triangle!

The point of this week’s lesson, titled “A Bride Worth Waiting For,” is to be fully committed within a relationship, to cultivate an ability to wait when necessary, and to work hard for something worth having. But I see another point as well: relationships are not fairytales. In our fallen world, they are some of the hardest experiences people can undertake. Even the best ones often involve some measure of lies, unmet expectations, disappointments, and unspoken desires. Most people in a relationship will at some point ask, “Is this how it’s supposed to be?”

The answer to that question is “No.” It’s most definitely not supposed to be that way. The world is no longer as God intended at creation. But into this simple fact come loads of hope, faith, determination, commitment, contriteness, forgiveness, support, steadiness, grace, and love. God gives us freedom to choose our paths, but God also provides all of these heavenly qualities in massive doses if we merely open ourselves to receiving them. And believe it or not, such qualities are enough to sustain a relationship through the hardest trials.

Relationships are not fairytales. They are hard stories of two people trying to make it work in a world angled against them. They are heartbreaking stories of two people choosing love in the face of terminal illness. They are unbelievable stories of two people trudging slowly through the muck of betrayal and resolving to try to heal their marriage. They are hopeful stories of two people finding each other after the death of a spouse, after a divorce, after job loss and sickness and addiction. They are glorious stories of two people reaching the end of life, white-haired and feeble, and still showing the faithful, steady love that forms the pillars of strong families.

Relationships are not easy. But they certainly make life more beautiful.

Discussion

1. Think of the closest relationships you have had over the years. What made them so strong? What made them last in spite of difficult circumstances?
2. Why do you think God created us to be in relationship with others?
3. Aside from the story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, what other Bible stories involve difficult relationships? How can we see God at work in them?
4. What do you think contributes to many people’s idea of love as a fairytale experience? How can we be more realistic without becoming cynical and passionless?
5. What can you do in your relationships to make them as beautiful as God created them to be?

Reference Shelf

Laban rewards Jacob with Leah, then Rachel.

Here the source is E—note the introduction of Rachel as if for the first time (v. 16), ignoring her appearance earlier (vv. 9-12).

Laban’s deception of his nephew in substituting Leah for Rachel on the wedding night (v. 23) lends a touch of the farcical to the narrative—when morning came, it was Leah! (v. 24). The narrative suggests poetic justice for Jacob who had substituted himself for Esau (27:18-29). The entire saga of Jacob’s and Laban’s relationship will prove to be a battle of wits, which Jacob ultimately wins.

Bruce T. Dahlberg, “Laban rewards Jacob with Leah, then Rachel,” Mercer Commentary on the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995), 113.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters (ages 10 and 8), and watching television shows on Netflix. Her goal for 2015 is to tackle the bass clef on the piano.

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