You might be wondering what in the world Beauty and the Beast has in common with marriage and a lady from the Bible. I did too, until the last few days. I have started a book study on Heather Creekmore’s book Compared To Who and by the second chapter I am upset.
Not necessarily with Heather. She’s just the messenger. I am upset by the reminder of a story in the Old Testament of the Bible that I tended to gloss over because it brought up these uncomfortable questions that I have for God that I had yet to address head on, until Heather gentle forced me to re-examine the story and then address what is going on in my heart.
A Story of Two Sisters
If you need a little reminder, Leah is Rachel’s older sister. According to the bible, Rachel was the beautiful one who had captured the heart of Jacob. However, the sisters’ father, Laban, tricked Jacob into marrying Leah after he worked for him for seven years, thinking he was working for Rachel. After Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah he was appalled and went to Laban to protest.
Eventually, Rachel was given to Jacob and the Bible does not mince words when it says that, “He loved Rachel more than Leah” (Gen. 29:30). If you are like me, and have struggled with your body image, you might find it offensive that the bible depicts one sister by her physical attractiveness and the other as less attractive and desirable. And to throw salt on the wound we are never told if Jacob ever loved the ugly sister for bearing four sons and having “beauty on the inside.” At least there might be some comfort in knowing that, but we don’t receive it.
Can Husbands Be Idols?
So I have been thinking about this story and wondering how it applies to my life. To share a little background with you, I have been married to my husband Luke for seven years. We have three young children. I would consider us to be “happily married,” but I really don’t like to use that term. It sounds so fickle. Like one day we are smiling at each other, but the next day if one of us is hangry or says the wrong thing, we are no longer happily married. Rather, I would say that we are in the trenches of raising babies and God has used this season to bring all kinds of sin and junk to the surface, and by His grace, we are addressing it and growing closer in intimacy with God and each other through the process (it’s amazing how God’s grace can do that).
One of the sins that God has allowed this season of life to reveal in me is the sin of idolatry. What? What is that, Gina? Do you have statues in your home? No. What sounds like an old-school sin of the Old Testament is actually a very modern offense that most of us are committing without realizing that it is called idolatry. God said that we are to have no other gods before Him and to make no images of created things and bow down or serve them (Ex. 20:3-4). That is idolatry because it is worship of and desire for a created thing rather than the Creator. So what? What’s the big deal about the object on which we place our worship?
Back in the garden of Eden the first people were created to have perfect union with the God who made them. There was nothing hindering the relationship because they had perfect trust in their loving God. And then they were tempted to doubt God’s goodness. Satan, in the form of a serpent, placed the doubt in their minds that God wasn’t to be trusted and that his Goodness wasn’t complete. A piece of fruit was dangled before them and suddenly they wondered if God really did want them to miss out.
What was God withholding from Adam and Eve? And with one bite from Eve and a following bite from Adam their eyes were opened to the shame of their doubt- to their lack of faith in the God who loved them and created them for unbroken relationship with each other and with Him.
See, worship matters because we were made to be in union with our Creator. God knows that our deepest fulfillment comes when we acknowledge Him as the One from whom all goodness and completeness and Life flow- because goodness and completeness and Life can only flow from the Creator. Worship of anything else is the worship of something created, and that which is created can never give us Life. It only brings disappointment.
So about this sin of idolatry. God has graciously revealed how I had crafted an idol of my own making, hoping it would bring to me goodness and completeness and Life. And that idol was my husband. I had hoped and longed for so many years for a man to love me, cherish me and tell me I was worthy of goodness and completeness and Life.
My husband does complete a deep part of me that God intended to be completed. There is a reason that God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone and to be fruitful and multiply (I think we got that part down). Marriage is a beautiful picture of the completeness of our Triune God with each gender, male and female, when unified in marriage, giving us a tangible picture of Jesus’ love for his followers.
But when marriage gets elevated to the place that it is the answer for our soul’s deepest questions . . . (Can marriage make me feel worthy of love and acceptance? Can it bring me goodness, completeness and Life?) Then it has become our idol.
See, God answered those questions back in the garden before sin. With incredible attention to detail, God made people to have relationship with Him and He with them. At the very core of who God is He is relational. And when we look to anything other than God to answer that question that idol will always fail us and leave us with more unanswered questions.
Beauty & the Beast
That’s one reason the story of Leah exposes this idol of mine. It isn’t fair. The more beautiful woman won the heart of Jacob. Even after Leah had sons Jacob still favored the beautiful one, infertile one. This goes against all that Beauty and the Beast tells us (I told you I’d make the connection).
Beauty and the Beast tells the enchanted fairy-tale of how true beauty–that which is on the inside–brings us true love and unlocks our ability to love in return. But what if that just isn’t true. It wasn’t true for Leah. In this narrative, Leah would have been like the beast, physically speaking. But her inner beauty never transformed her into a beautiful princess in the eyes of Jacob. He still didn’t want her. This breaks my heart for her. That pesky idol of mine wants vengeance for the Beast who was never loved in return.
But then, if we read on, we see the progression of the change that took place inside of Leah’s heart. As you read along, pay attention to the meaning of the names of her sons:
“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, ‘It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.’
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.’ So she named him Simeon.
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ So he was named Levi.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.”
Do you notice the subtle progression of what happened in Leah? Yeah, until reading Heather’s perspective in her book I missed it too.
Leah went from seeking her husband’s love and acceptance through child-bearing to finding her love and acceptance in praising the Lord.
It’s hard to know for sure, but I wonder if the Lord put this small story in the Bible to show women just like you and I that there is nothing on this earth, even a husband and children, that will fulfill us like when we are worshipping with our whole, abandoned heart, the Lord God who loves us and answers the question of our heart with a resounding “Yes! I love you. I accept you. You were made for relationship with Me. I alone will give you goodness, completeness and Life!”
You may be thinking, “Well, of course! She was despised so the Lord was all she had left.”
I can tell you, as someone who is deeply loved and cherished by my husband, the very opposite of Leah, the same is true for me.
In a way, I am Rachel.
My husband desired me from the moment he saw me. He pursued me and continues to. So why do I still struggle with the idol of marriage? And why do all of his loving compliments or acts of service not bring my heart peace or rest from wondering if I am loved and accepted? Why does a “happy marriage” still not always bring goodness and completeness and Life?
Because my husband is a created thing. A broken, created thing cannot fix another broken created thing. Only a Creator has the goodness and completeness and Life to rescue and fix His broken creation.
So really, whether you identify with Rachel or Leah, it does not matter. Their stories are the same, just with a different exterior. Your story and my story is the same at the core.
We were created to find out deepest fulfillment, satisfaction and answers to our soul’s questions in our Creator. All else is second rate. All else are idols that will break and disappoint and lie and leave us in a never-ending rat race of competition and unrest.
God wants the best for his daughters. And the best is Him.
Gina Funderburg has a passion for encouraging others on their journey towards a healthier lifestyle by helping them understand basic and simple exercise and nutritional principles, as well as the value of community and accountability. As the mother of three young children, she believes that a healthy lifestyle journey should be a joy, not a burden as another task to make life more difficult. As a fellow woman, she has been wounded by the battle of body image and self-perception, and has discovered that the only respite from the war is found in the strong arms of her loving and gracious Savior, Jesus. Follow Gina’s blog at:Funderandlightening.blogspot.com or read Gina’s other posts here.