Areas created by internal voids, deferred hopes, and societal pressures, many of us find ourselves in spaces where we’re inclined to control our lives. Whether that means forcing commitment out of other broken people or bypassing self-care for potential career recognition, all unnatural growth has one thing in common: a source who is either unable to hear or unwilling to listen to God’s voice. Today’s devotional is for people who have deliberately or subconsciously reasoned that waiting on God takes too long and that the pain of unnatural advancement is bearable, persons who have compromised peace for progress and divine positioning for movement, and individuals who put more faith in their timeline than God’s providence…
Genesis 29 introduces us to two Hebrew sisters, Leah and Rachel. While the Bible describes the two differently (Leah as one having “delicate eyes” and Rachel as “beautiful of form and appearance” – v.17), they share something in common – a husband, Jacob. At the beginning of the story, readers learn of Jacob’s ‘love at first sight’ interaction with Rachel and his subsequent appeal to her father for her hand in marriage. Laban – Leah and Rachel’s father – agrees to give Rachel to Jacob, but only in exchange for seven years of work. To Jacob, seven years speed by, seeming only like a few days considering the love he has for Rachel. Unfortunately, when darkness begins to fall on the day of their marriage, Laban sneaks Leah into Jacob’s bed chamber and he consummates his commitment to her instead. When he wakes up the next day and sees Leah lying beside him instead of Rachel, he becomes furious. Laban explains that because Leah is older, she must become a wife before her younger sister and Jacob must work seven additional years for the woman he truly loves. Sadly, Leah spends the rest of her Biblical existence trying to get Jacob to love her.
Though the controlling space you live in may not result in unrequited romantic love, we all have a Jacob (a forced connection with someone or forced status as something). Your Jacob could be a stranger or associate who you shower with gifts and compliments in hopes that they’ll consider being your friend, a friend who – despite being bad for your emotional, mental, physical, and/or spiritual health – you keep around as not to appear lonely, or a family member whose selfish, backstabbing, freeloading nature you overlook for the sake of appearing forgiving and functional to onlookers. Your Jacob could be an idea that should be in the brainstorming stages if you weren’t so busy pretending its a revenue-producing business on social media, a business you represent at the laundry list of brand-damaging events you attend to look like you’re partnering with the ‘who’s who,’ a job you should’ve quit months ago to go back to school if you weren’t afraid of risks and too concerned about other people’s opinions to be broke for a season, or a career you’re not educationally, professionally, or socially ready to embark upon but proceed for fear of being regarded as anything less than boss. Your Jacob is the truth that keeps you up at night, the fact that would humiliate you if the world found out, and the realization you avoid quiet time so that you can ignore. It’s the reason a deep look in the mirror would arouse emotion, therapy is a dirty word, and you cringe at the thought of transparency. Though your Jacob appears to be progressing, it’s only because you prescribed it to…because you can’t imagine life over thirty and unmarried, as a man without a job, or out of the spotlight. And the only way you can overcome your Jacob is to be honest about him.
When you choose to exaggerate the reality of your circumstances instead of embracing the painful voids that their truths reveal, you subconsciously tell yourself that the authentic life you’ve created isn’t good enough to be lived. Hiding is an admission that you don’t like who you are and don’t trust who being yourself will lead you to become. -Dylesia Barner, LCSW
If you’re ready to embark upon an honest journey, start by spending quiet time reflecting and praying about the areas of your life you’ve misrepresented. Consider distorted relationships and inflated prestige. Once you’ve gathered your thoughts and emotions, create a list of your Jacobs and journal about what compels you to unnaturally advance your life and why you fear God’s timing. Because of the vulnerable position these exercises will put you in, including a mental health professional is recommended. Visit psychologytoday.com to find a therapist in your area.
For more Biblical study on this subject, visit mtzionanywhere.tv to watch “The Leah Complex” (Sunday, February 11, 2018) sermon by Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III.