Lineage of Sorrow

I’ve come to think if you can explain something sufficiently to a curious third grader, you can explain it to almost anyone. Last week our children’s minister ask if I would help her write Sunday school curriculum for our fall sermon series on Jacob. “Jacob’s tough,” she said. “I’m stuck.”

After reading through the texts carefully all I had was agreement with her. The Jacob story is tough. Isaac prays to the Lord and gets not only one boy but two. His favorite son is the elder, Esau, while Rebekah favors Jacob. Jacob tricks his father into getting a blessing. And then he leaves. And as if it’s not hard enough to tell kids stories about parents having favorites and kids tricking their parents, then we hit Genesis 29. Jacob falls in love with Rachel, but Laban tricks him into marrying Leah as well. But he doesn’t love Leah, he loves Rachel.

When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.  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.” fertility

The Jacob story doesn’t get easier after that, either. We made a plan with the kids around blessing that I think will work well.

But days later, I find my heart remains with Rachel and Leah. I am at the age when some of my friends are struggling with marriage and fertility issues. So many of my friends have miscarried and struggled to have children. I have had friends lose babies, and one recently told me she has stopped saying they are trying to have children and has started saying, “We are hoping to have children.” Feeling far away from your spouse, feeling barren, miscarrying– these things are so overwhelmingly painful its hard not to think God is blessing others and not you. It’s hard to see the abundance in others’ lives and not compare it to the emptiness in your own. There is something primal about these two women– one has many sons and misses the love of her husband while the other has Jacob’s adoration but goes without children. It is an age old story that people I love are still, today, swimming in.

My co-worker asked me to look at the Jacob story, but I carry Leah and Rachel’s story in my heart. It does not take the pain away, but it strengthens me to remember that our ancestors had the same hurting hearts and aching wombs that we do today.

Published by Ellie Roscher

Ellie Roscher is the author of How Coffee Saved My Life, and Other Stories of Stumbling to Grace. She holds a master’s degree in Theology/Urban Ministry from Luther Seminary and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

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