Then, the day came she had longed for… the birth of her first child. With joy, she took the boy in her arms and exclaimed, “Look, it’s a son! God saw I was not loved and gave me a son, so now my husband will love me. I have given him a son, after all!” The nurse put her arm gently around her shoulder, but said nothing. The nurse, just like everyone else around knew where her husband’s heart was kept. He was probably there now, seeing he was not on hand that night this new mother went into labor, and named their child by herself.
That didn’t stop her from loving him, and wanting his love. Yet, it didn’t seem to make a difference to her husband. He loved the boy alright. But, it was no secret that he didn’t have any affection for the boy’s mother. She began to talk to God about it at night, nights when she was left alone, and knowing where he was, she opened her broken heart up to God and prayed for God to help her marriage. It wasn’t long before she was pregnant again. And, when her time came to give birth, she held another baby boy in her arms and wept for joy. This time, she thought, God has heard my prayers. He heard and has given me a second son, so now my husband will love me. The human mind can only conjecture what the Divine intellect has seen and heard. We live our lives in faith that we are seen, and utter our prayers believing we have the ear of the Creator.
It was obvious someone was both seeing and hearing this young lady’s prayers. While her husband continued to pour out lavish gifts on the other woman, he still managed to find his way to her bed on occasion, wanting the children this marriage of convenience could provide him. She never complained, but loved him with her total being… whenever he came home to her. And, when he was away, she continued to pray. Not long after the first two, she gave birth to their third son, and naming him all by herself again, she held onto that joyful faith that God would answer her. Seeing the baby’s wrinkled little face, she hugged him close and cried with delight! Now, surely these three boys would draw her husband closer to her for life. The bond of parenthood must keep him close to her. Didn’t they say that a ‘three-fold cord was not easily broken?!’
Day in and day out, her life was filled with the joys of motherhood. Her husband was gone more often, but she was so busy with washing dirty faces and doctoring bruised knees that she didn’t seem as bothered by the fact that he didn’t love her. She wrapped herself up in the boys. She spent her days teaching them all the things she would have taught a daughter; how to cook, gather wild berries, bring in vegetables from the fields, and to take care of their home. Her sons adored her. It made her so happy to have them bouncing in her lap all at once, hugging her neck, and kissing her cheek and forehead as if she was the best mother in the world. And, she was their world. She began to realize what she had gained in this marriage of convenience. But, then the fourth son was born. This time, as she marveled at the dark tousled head of her newest infant, and held him up to his three brothers gathered awestruck beside her bed, she exclaimed aloud, “God has given me so much! Thank God for four wonderful sons! Thank you Lord for giving me the love of these four boys! How wonderful you have been to me!” For, now it seemed she had finally realized what really mattered. God loved her! Indeed, God loved her so much that He had given her four sons, despite the fact that her husband failed to love her.
Sometimes we are so busy wiping the noses of our ‘prayers’ that we don’t see that God has truly seen, heard, and answered. And, so it was with plain-looking Leah, whose husband Jacob was tricked into marrying her by her father. Dad couldn’t be blamed for loving this sweet girl enough to do whatever he thought necessary to make her happy. And, even though her husband loved his other wife Rachael more, because of her beauty, Leah was the first one recorded in the Bible who thought to say thanks.
From Creation, to the flood, and right down to the end of the Genesis, humanity kept taking and taking all that God would give. They complained when things weren’t going their way. Adam complained that the companionship of the animals wasn’t good enough. God agreed and gave him a wife. Adam became absorbed in Eve. Cain complained God’s punishment was too stiff, so God capitulated and gave mankind a mandate for the murderer’s protection. Noah wanted meat, instead of just fruits, nuts, and berries, so God permitted meat as a meal… so long as it was cooked and not bloody. Request after request was answered, but not once in the book of beginnings was any said to feel gratitude to God until Leah opened her eyes and said, “Now I will praise the Lord!”
The words ‘praise’ and ‘thanks’ in the Bible come from the Hebrew word ‘yadah’ (yaw-daw,) which means to give thanks. It is first used in Genesis 29:35, when Leah names her baby Judah as an act of thanksgiving to God, who gave four sweet boys to love the unloved wife. I am reminded by her selfless act of open gratitude in the face of her seemingly unanswered prayer, that God’s answers sometimes have bruises and skinned knees. Sometimes his greatest gifts are the comforts surrounding us while we pray for deliverance from pain. That first Thanksgiving in the Bible is contagious, because Leah’s words fill our hearts with her exuberance, causing us to turn our hearts in gratitude to God, as we hold His blessings.