“Happy Father’s Day!” Daughters, do those words invoke images of love and acceptance, or neglect and abuse? Here’s a Bible character who could be nominated for Worst Dad Ever.
“Here’s your breakfast, Beautiful. Slap on the feed bag, Fatso.”
Those are the words Daddy Laban spoke to his daughters every morning. Laban, the Old Testament patriarch, dubbed his youngest daughter “Dainty” (That’s what Rachel means in Hebrew). Big Sis Leah was called “Cow” when she emerged from her mother’s womb. In Hebrew culture, names were signifiers, prophetic words spoken over the child by the parent. So Leah lived with the stigma of a derogatory moniker her whole life. Can you imagine being dealt such a debilitating blow to your own self- esteem? Laban was a bad dad.
Fathers (if they are still around) leave an indelible mark upon their daughters.
I grew up with one sister. Her name was “Barbie.” (Her actual name was Kathy, but she was blonde, blue-eyed and gorgeous). I felt like Midge, Barbie’s plain girlfriend, all my life. I suffered through the acne, glasses, braces and the baby fat of early adolescence. I was never homecoming queen, but was blessed that my father saw Kathy and me as equally beautiful and gifted in his eyes.
Chinese girl babies are still offed because the family is permitted to have only one child, and that child needed to be a son. Sons and their wives lived with his parents, therefore the son’s parents were provided for in their old age. A daughter’s parents had no one to provide security for the future because the bride left to live with the groom’s family.
Some daughters from Islamic families receive incomprehensible pain and abuse from their fathers. My dearest friend in Jordan provides a safe house for girls who have been raped by their fathers and uncles, discarded like trash, condemned as unclean and sent to live on the streets. These precious young women are often destined for a life of imprisonment, poverty or prostitution.
Many Indian females suffered brutal discrimination and ridicule through the years. However, in a recent ceremony in Mumbai, India, 285 Indian girls with the name “Nakusa” or “unwanted,” were allowed to choose new names. Associated Press, 2011.
The book of Genesis recounts Leah’s painful story of abandonment and rejection. Genesis 29 reads like a soap opera-replete with favoritism, intrigue, jealousy and sibling rivalry. Poor Leah’s physical description was not flattering.
Genesis 29:16-18: “Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful.
As the story goes, Laban tricked Jacob into sleeping with homely Leah instead of sexy Rachel, the wife he requested.
So the cycle of pain continued. Jacob rejected Leah just as her father, Laban had done.
LEAH WAS WOUNDED BY HER FATHER’S AND HUSBAND’S REJECTION.
CAN YOU IMAGINE THE IMPACT OF LEAH’S LOW SELF-ESTEEM UPON HER CHILDREN?
Leah’s rejection was shown in the names she bestowed upon her sons. After sleeping with Jacob, she immediately conceived and had a son. Leah named her first baby boy Reuben (not the sandwich). Reuben means “God knows I am miserable-surely now Jacob will love me.” Can you imagine? Leah calls from her tent, “Come to dinner, maybe now my husband will love me.”
The second son Simeon means “God sees me, but Jacob doesn’t love me.” Can you imagine? Jacob hears Leah call to her son, “Put on your sandals, Jacob doesn’t love me.”
Then, Levi was born, and Leah called him “Now my husband will finally become attached to me.” So sitting around the dinner table were “Surely Jacob will love me,” “maybe now Jacob will love me,” and finally “Jacob will like me a little.”
Spoiled Rachel was grouchy by now because she had yet to bear a son, so when Joseph was born, she named him, “I hope I get another one.” Can you imagine calling your first child “I hope I get another one?”
But as time went by, Leah’s attitude began to change. Her next three sons were Judah, “this time I will praise the Lord,” Isaachar, “God has rewarded me for giving my maid servant to my husband,” Zebulun, “This time my husband will treat me with honor because I have given him six sons.” Leah began to realize the love she had longed for was given to her by her Heavenly Father.
Have the women in your life ever received the “Leah” treatment?
Leah needed to be known and to know she was loved.
First, what might Jacob have done to really know Leah?
He could have spent time with her, learning the unique beauty of her character. If you look closer the Hebrew word for Leah’s eyes, rakkoth means weak or tender, delicate and soft. Leah’s eyes were sensitive, gentle and kind.
Perhaps Rachael’s eyes sparkled while Leah’s were dreamy and tender.
Though she may have been unwanted and despised by Jacob, God saw in her an inner beauty that equipped her for carrying out his plan. There is a kind of beauty that God gives at birth that will eventually wither like a flower. And, there is a beauty God grants to those who are born again by grace. This beauty blooms for eternity.
Laban could have given her security! Security is like a “cuddly blanket.”
Your daughter needs to know:
Daddy won’t leave me: he will be there when I need him.
Dad will give me stability—financially, mentally, emotionally and physically.
My maternal grandfather was a sex addict. He married and divorced my grandmother three times. He had multiple affairs, coming home at all hours of the night with no explanation or apology. My Mom once saw him at the movies with another woman. When she tearfully told her mother, my grandmom shook her head and said nothing. When he had his last affair before their final divorce, Grandpa’s mistress walked straight up to my Grandmother, introduced herself and said two words: “He’s mine.”
On the other hand, my father could not have loved my Mother more deeply and differently. He constantly romanced her, befriended her and praised her. He knew how deeply impacted she was by her father’s infidelity, so he led a pure, committed Christian life and assured her of his faithfulness. Sixty-five years later, they are still madly in love!
And as a father, he modeled love, faithfulness and integrity to his two daughters.
Fathers, love like God loves your little girls.
“The Lord appeared from of old to me [Israel], saying, Yes, I have LOVED YOU WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3 AMP