ALL I AM: Filling the Void  Genesis 29 & 30

I have quite the challenge in front of me — I am preaching on Mother’s Day out of a passage that has to do with polygamy!  Pray for me.  In fact, it’s even a little bit deeper than that….not only is it about polygamy, it’s sorta of a sister-wives meets “Desperate Housewives” meets intervention.  That’s where we’re going this morning.  If you’ve been with us over the last few weeks, you know we’ve been studying the life of Jacob, one of the great patriarchs of the Hebrew faith.  He’s one of the more unheroic heroes in all of Scriptures.  If you’ve been looking for glimmers of hope or shouts of light in the story, you’ve been left wanting over the last few weeks.

We started this journey saying that Jacob was born second-fiddle–he was second born in a first-born society. Unlike his brother, he was a gatherer.  His brother was the more manly hunter.  Because of that, his brother was loved by his father and in a patriarchal society that was a good thing.  Jacob was more loved by his mother which didn’t help him out a whole lot.  He swindled a birthright out of his brother Esau.  He lied to his father and stole the blessing that was meant and intended for his brother.  That didn’t work out all that well.  After he stole the blessing, his mother told him that he should go live with his crazy Uncle Laban.  It’s a 700 mile walk up to his uncle’s place.  The only person more shady in the narrative of Jacob is his Uncle Laban.  It’s as though the narrator of this story puts a “chuckle” in the writing as Jacob leaves his home in Beersheba to go up to Haran to encounter his counterpart in shadiness and swindling (Uncle Laban).

If you have a Bible, Genesis 29 is where we’re going to be camping out today.  Verse 1 has Jacob on his way to go see and hopefully live with his uncle.  That would be his desire.  Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east.  As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered.  The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well. {Do you get the picture?  Jacob approaches this well and there’s three flocks of sheep waiting for enough sheep to get there so there’d be enough shepherds there to collectively move the big stone that was over the face of the well to keep the water fresh.}  Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?”  They said, “We are from Haran.”  He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?”  They said, “We know him.”  He said to them, “Is it well with him?”  They said, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!”  {If this were a movie, the camera would pan over slowly to Rachel.  Rachel, with thematic music in the background, would be slow-motion walking towards Jacob.  There’d be wind in her hair, blowing.  She would be beautiful and breathtaking. The music would let you know she owns the world.  Behind her there’s sheep and they are in a “mighty ducks” flying-V formation, I’m sure.}  He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered together.  Water the sheep and go, pasture them.”  But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”  {Hey, Jacob, great idea!  Thanks alot, but we actually will wait until the sheep get here because it takes all the shepherds to move the stone.}  While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.  {Quick timeout.  This would be akin to saying, nowadays, she was not only beautiful, but she followed football and she had an arm.  She could drop back in the pocket and throw a football like nothing you’ve ever seen!  For a woman to be a shepherdess…..the guys would have been like wow! alright, Rachel!!  And indeed Jacob was.}  Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, {his cousin} Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. {They’re waiting for a number of other shepherds to come and Jacob’s like, “Uh, baby, you need some water for your sheep?  Let’s chat about that because I can move that stone off of that well if you need me to.”  Jacob — feat of strength!}   Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father.  

As a high school pastor and a college pastor, I was constantly running into books on biblical dating.  Courtship. It’s interesting that I never encountered anything on Jacob in any of these books.  Let me just propose to you that if you’re interested in biblical dating or courtship, Jacob is a biblical model that I don’t propose you follow. If you were to write a book on biblical dating according to Jacob’s life, here’s what you’d see:  1) Bench press a lot of weight and demonstrate feats of strength in front of the women you want to impress.  2) Kiss her without saying a word.  Jacob grabbed Rachel and he kissed her.  3) Weep like a baby.  Isn’t that awesome?  He kisses her and just starts crying.  Oh, sweet Lord, thank you!  My cousin’s beautiful!  4) Tell her the good news — you’re related.  That’s how it plays out in the passage.  Jacob is obsessed with Rachel.  Verse 13:  As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house.  Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.”  And he stayed with him a month.  Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing?  Tell me, what shall your wages be?”  Now Laban had two daughters.  The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.  Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.  {Just a quick timeout.  There’s a number of comical debates in the commentaries about what this means.  If you Google it — What does it mean that Leah has weak eyes? — you’ll find things as comical as….she had glaucoma.  Things like: She must have been allergic to the sand that was blowing and whirling around in the area.  A side note:  We are committed at such a high level of taking the Bible literally, that we take it literally when it doesn’t intend for us to take it literally.  Here’s how I know it doesn’t intend for us to think that Leah had weak eyes.  Look what follows it.  Leah has weak eyes, but Rachel had 20/20 vision.  No, that’s not what it says.  Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful.  It was a Hebrew idiom.  It was a way of saying, “She’s a little bit hard to look at.  She’s not the most beautiful of women.”  Her sister was far more beautiful.  Verse 18.}  Jacob loved Rachel.  And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”  Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.”  So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Isn’t that romantic?  Sort of.  We would love for it to be romantic.  We look for that kind of thing in the Scriptures.  There is a glimmer of romance in this passage.  But here’s what you start to see if you dig a little bit deeper.  The going rate of a dowry would have been two to three years of work.  Jacob is obsessed.  He’s overpaying, in a sense, for Rachel’s hand in marriage.  He wants it so badly.  And while we look at verse 20 and go, “Isn’t that romantic?” nobody has ever continued to read to verse 21 and thought the same thing.  Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.”   That’s not on a lot of coffee mugs.  Not on a lot of greeting cards.  Here’s what you see….Jacob is revealing his true heart in what his intentions are.  He longs to be with Rachel.  He is obsessed with her.  His world revolved, for seven years, around verse 21 — I want to be with this woman, who I long for her to be my wife.  In that verse we start to see one of the themes that weaves its way throughout the entire narrative, this entire passage.  It weaves its way throughout this narrative and it weaves its way throughout our lives.  You see, Jacob has this conviction.  He has this conviction, he has this hope, he has this expectation, if I get Rachel then my life will be complete.  He goes a little bit Jerry Maguire on us — You complete me, Rachel!  He has this false belief that if I can just get her then everything else in my life will be okay.  If I can just get that relationship….  If I can just have that marriage….well, then everything else is going to be good.  He has this inner emptiness, Jacob does.  But he’s not unique in that.  {Will you look up at me for a moment.}  All of us have that.  All of us have that on some level.  That conviction:  if only I had…..you fill in the blank of whatever it is….then my life would be complete.  Then my life would be okay.  What we see if Jacob’s life and what we see in the other characters in this narrative in their lives is that this inner emptiness creates unrealistic expectations. 

This is a huge word in our lives, isn’t it?  Expectations.  I ran across a little thing on Facebook this week.  An article that pointed out travel expectations vs. reality.  Expectation:  Go to the Great Wall of China — the sun is setting, it’s beautiful, it’s pristine.  Reality:  You might not be there alone.  Expectation:  Go to visit the Taj Mahal.  You’re there alone.  It’s bright, it’s sunny.  Reality:  You might need to wear a mask because of the smog.  Expectation:  Go to see the Mona Lisa.  Reality:  You walk in the room and thought, “That’s a lot smaller than I thought it would be.”  Managing expectations is a huge part in living the type of life we want to live, isn’t it?  As a parent, one of the things Kelly and I constantly run into is our oldest son…..his best friend gets something and his expectation is I will have that same thing within a week.  His best friend got a FitBit recently and my son is now, “I want a FitBit!”  Now that kid gets 50,000 steps a day so I’m like, “Here, you can wear mine for a while.  Run around the backyard.  Get your game on.”  His expectation is I’ll get it immediately.  Some of us had expectations that we’d graduate from high school then go to college.  We’d graduate from college and then we’d get married.  We’d graduate from college and get a great job.  We’d work that job and our company would respect us and honor us and eventually we’d get to the point we could retire.  Those were our expectations going in.  Sometimes, isn’t it true, that the expectations that we have are really birthed in an emptiness and a longing that we have deep within our soul.  The truth of the matter is when any expectation is birthed in an emptiness, we can never, ever, ever fill the void that we create in our own soul.

In this narrative, you look at Jacob.  Jacob’s conviction is if I just get Rachel, my life will be okay.  Rachel’s conviction is if I could only have kids then my life would be complete.  Leah’s conviction is if I could just get the love of my husband then I’ll be alright.  I love have applicable the Scriptures are because how many of us walk in with similar expectations?  If I just got him or her then my life would be okay.  Maybe on Mother’s Day that’s the longing of your soul — if we just had kids, we’d make it, we’d be okay.  What happens in this narrative is that the emptiness creates an expectation on the lives of everybody in it.  Here’s what you start to see as you track along with the story in Genesis: these unrealistic expectations that he or she or it will fulfill the longing in my soul always, always, always inhibits genuine enjoyment of life.  Here’s the truth of the matter — when I’m constantly thinking about the way I wish things were, it’s impossible to appreciate the way that things are. When I’m constantly obsessed with “if I just had that (fill-in-whatever-blank is in your life) then I would be okay.”  It’s true in marriage, it’s true in parenting…..if our expectations are tied up in our emptiness, when they’re unrealistic, it’s impossible for us to actually enjoy the life that God has graciously given us.  The author of Ecclesiastes (3:11) puts it like this:  He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart….  Here’s what that means — that emptiness that you feel, that fill-in-the-blank that you have in your life…the depth of that thing is eternal.  That’s a black hole.  Regardless of what you put into that space, I can guarantee you that every single time it’s going to come up short.  So if the thought is “if I had him or her” and we put that into that space in our heart, into that eternal hole or void that every single one of us has in our soul, it will never satisfy.  You see Jacob doing it.  You see Rachel doing it.  You see Leah doing it. What they’re wrestling with is man, I have this pervasive emptiness in my soul and I need to fill it with something and they try to fill it with people and love and stuff and it let’s them down.   Before we’re too hard on them, can we just go, “Oh, yeah.  Been there.”  I’ve been at that place where I’ve had something in my mind that I wanted so badly and when I got it I put it in that spot I thought it would fill and it didn’t even come close. {Anybody want to go Amen?!}  It’s what we see being birthed in this narrative.  I love the way that the great early church father, Saint Augustine, puts it:  “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you, O Lord.”

So the question we have to wrestle with is where do we go when we get to this place of…..God, I have this emptiness and it’s created an expectation and the expectation always lets me down every single time….where do we go when we get to that spot?  We have options, right?  We can look at the marriage and if that’s what we’re trying to put in that emptiness, we could try to improve the marriage, right?  Which is not a bad idea. It’s a great idea.  But it’s never going to fill the void that we’re putting it in.  We could try to be better parents which isn’t a bad idea either.  It’s just never going to satisfy.  We could blame other people.  We could blame ourselves.  We could blame the world.  OR…we could reorient our lives.  We could say, “Well, maybe that’s not what I was designed for.  Maybe that IS an eternal void. If it is an eternal void in my soul, then there’s only ONE THING that can fill it.”  There’s only one thing big enough, there’s only one thing beautiful enough, there’s only one thing good enough to fill that void in our soul.  Leah, ironically, is one of the only people in this narrative that starts to understand this reality.  Listen to the way she helps us get to this conclusion:   And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.”  Therefore she called his name Judah.  Then she ceased bearing.  Here’s her declaration–I’m changing the game.  I’m no longer looking to Jacob in order to be my sufficiency.  I’m no longer looking to Jacob to fill me up.  I’m no longer looking to Jacob to tell me who I am and to tell me I’m enough and to make my life matter and to make my life count.  I’m taking Jacob off of the throne of my heart and I’m putting God in his place.  {Will you look up at my a second.}  Some of you…that’s the journey God wants to take you on today.  I just sense it in my bones that there’s some of you in here where you have something else on the throne of your heart, your life and God’s invitation to you today is…THAT will never satisfy, it will never fill the void.  The ONLY thing that can is Him!  Ultimate joy is found when we embrace a new affection, just like Leah does, not by trying to fill our emptiness.  Where we say alright, I’m going to stop trying to put things into that void.  I’m going to stop trying to play THAT game and I’m going to now focus on making God my ultimate joy, my ultimate affection, my ultimate longing.  He’s going to be what I have in my view.  I’m going to turn my eyes to Him.  “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim…..”

Here’s the interesting part about that.  When God is in His rightful place as our ultimate affection, the good things that He’s given us in life actually get better!  My wife is a wonderful wife.  She’s a wonderful mom.  She’s a terrible God!  She is!  She’s a horrible God!  My kids….if my sufficiency and my identity is tied up in how well my kids perform…in school, in sports, in the play, in the choir, whatever…if my identity is tied up in how they do, I will crush them with those expectations and being a dad won’t be all that fun.  Being a mom won’t be all that fun.  But if we know who we are, if Christ is at the center-point and at the fulcrum of our lives, then it doesn’t make everything else worse, it allows us to enjoy everything else MORE.  Because it’s in its rightful spot. Instead of worshipping the gifts that God’s given us and bowing down at the idolatrous throne of….whether it’s marriage or children or the stuff we have in our bank accounts or our garage or in our neighborhood or whatever it is….when God’s in His rightful spot EVERYTHING else gets better.  Whatever’s on the throne of your life will determine how you find joy.  Whatever you put there has to be able to sustain the weight you give to it.  The only way that you and I can find joy in every single circumstance we walk through in life is if our joy is anchored to something greater than our circumstances.  If it’s tied to our circumstances, it’s going to waver with the wind and the waves that come into our life.  Which is why the Apostle Paul will write to the church at Philippi:  I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ…(Phil. 3:8-9)   I count it all loss.  I count it all rubbish.   What’s he saying?   I’m putting Jesus on the throne and that’s the way I’m living my life.  Here’s the beautiful thing that starts to come out of that — a new affection. Jesus on the throne, if you will, frees us from being controlled by unrealistic expectations.  A new ruler in our life.  A new lord of our life.  A new ultimate beauty, an ultimate quest, an ultimate desire…..it frees us from being controlled by unrealistic expectations.  If you want freedom in your life, love Jesus more than anything else.  It will release you to be a better mom.

If you were hoping to hear a Mother’s Day message — three steps to being a better mom — I’ve got better than that, I’ve got one step to being a better mom.  One step to being a better parent.  One step to being a better spouse.  One step to being a better employee, student, neighbor, friend……  Whatever situation you find yourself in, set Jesus as your greatest affection and then you’ll free people from the faulty expectations they often live under.  You’ll allow them to be who they are without you finding your identity and sufficiency in either their successes or their failures.  One of the things this narrative draws out for us is how freeing it is to have an affection that’s tied up in the King of kings and the Lord of lords and on the opposite side, to be controlled by an emptiness that creates false expectations of ourselves and everybody else around us and just drives us deeper and deeper and deeper into an eternal hole.

So the invitation this morning is turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Allow Him to be the ultimate in your life and when he is there’s some things that happen.  I tried to imagine how this narrative might have turned out differently if God had been the ultimate in each of these people’s lives, if God had been the supreme in each of their lives and how might we receive from them what God might do in our lives.  I want to talk about four things that I see in this passage that would transform with a new affection.  Verse 30: So Jacob went in to Rachel also, {This is after seven days with Leah, that time period was up, he then married Leah’s beautiful sister, Rachel. They were together.} …and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.  I spent a lot of time thinking about this story.  There’s a lot of different dynamics in the different characters, but every time I read it, I just can’t help but feel absolutely devastated for Leah.  Think about her life.  She’s the older of two girls.  In this culture, you needed to marry off the older before the younger and she’s this stalemate.  Her sister is beautiful, but nobody wants to be with Leah.  Her father has to trick somebody into marrying her.  He (Jacob) wakes up after their wedding night and goes, “Wasn’t expecting to see YOU here!” That can’t go over well.  There’s years of counseling behind that one statement, right?  She knows she’s unloved. You go on and you read through this relationship between the three of them—Jacob, Rachel and Leah—and Rachel and Leah are just at each other’s throats.  They have what each other wants.  Leah wants to be loved by her husband and she’s not.  Rachel wants to have children and she can’t and each of them looks at the other person and they compare their life to the life of the other.  Here’s the thing that starts to happen and what would happen if we had a new affection…..maybe, just maybe, we would be freed from this comparison game we often find ourselves in and able to walk whatever road God has for us with contentment.  It’s impossible to appreciate what I have if I’m consumed with what I lack.  It’s impossible to appreciate what I have when I’m obsessed with what somebody else has.  It’s that comparison game that we get into so often, don’t we?  {I’m just getting on my soap box for one minute here.}  One of the things that social media has done for us is that it has driven us to new ways and new levels of how we can compare our life to other people.  There’s scientific studies that they’re doing right now and what they’re finding is one of the ways to have a miserable day is to start your day by looking at Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram or whatever drug of choice you choose….that you start your day by comparing your life to everybody else.  We look at Pinterest and think, “I could never make the cupcakes like that,” or “I could never decorate my house like that.”  We start to compare our lives with everybody else.  Here’s the secret—that’s not their real life!  It doesn’t always look like that.  That’s one picture out of a hundred that they took.  The other 99 were terrible!  We’re comparing our lives to something that’s a non-reality.  No wonder it’s hard for us to say, “God, thank you for the things you’ve given to me.”  Thank you for the life you’ve given to me.  Thank you for the spouse you’ve given to me.  The friends you’ve given to me.  The job that you’ve given to me.  Comparison is one of the greatest killers of joy!!

For all the moms here today, I want to give you gospel freedom and tell you you don’t need to compare yourself to anybody else.  You’re called to run your race and if it doesn’t look like Pinterest, who gives a rip! You love the people God has put into your life as faithfully and as well as you can.  Try to rest content every night in the reality that you’ve done that, not comparing your journey or your way to anybody else’s.  You run your race.

Paul talks about, in Philippians 4:10-11, that he learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. I love that, because he’s showing us that behind the scenes, pulling back the curtain a little bit, that he didn’t always nail it.  He says he didn’t always get it right, but one of the thing that God’s doing in my life is whether I’m well fed or hungry, whether I have plenty or in need, I’m LEARNING how to be content in any situation that God takes me in.  {That’s first.} 

Second, it says in verse 35: And she (Leah) conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.”  There’s a defiance in the claim “this time.”  There’s a changing of the game we talked about in the “this time.”  This time I’m going to do things a little bit differently.  God, you are getting my affection and you are getting my attention.  One of the things I love about this statement is that Leah’s circumstances with her husband do not change.  The emptiness that she feels in her life is still there and growing daily as she sees her sister get the affection that she so desperately longs for.  One of the things you see in Leah’s life is that pain is going to be inevitable.  It’s going to be part of every single journey that you and I walk.  There’s nobody that gets out of life unscathed by pain.  No one!  The question is — what will our pain drive us to?  Will our pain drive us to self-pity?  And some of that’s very, very…..what I would consider natural.  There’s some hard roads that you guys have walked.  And getting to walk with you as a pastor, I am brokenhearted for some of the pain that you find yourselves in, even to this very day.  The question isn’t though whether or not we will walk through pain, the question is whether or not our pain will lead us to self-pity or will it push us to praise?  That’s the question we all have to wrestle with.  A new affection, a new love for Jesus, a new exultation of Jesus in our lives allows us to sing praise instead of sulking in self-pity.  This time I’ll praise the Lord.  I’m just wondering for those who are in here today…I am keenly aware that Mother’s Day is, as you look on the calendar, one of the most double-edged-sworded days in our culture.  There are people that love it and there’s people that see it coming and dread it.  They dread it because Mother’s Day reminds them of a void there is in their life, because their mom isn’t here anymore.  That’s the boat I’m in.  There’s people that see that day coming and go, “I wish, with everything that I have, that I were a mom.”  And there’s pain in that journey.  And there’s expectation in that journey.  And there’s longing in that journey.  As gently and pastorally as I can, I just want to point you to Jesus today.  I just want to say to you, “I know that there’s pain along the way.  The question is will we feel sorry for ourself or will we reflect on the greatness of our God?”  It’s hard to do both.  I’ve never met anybody who wallowed in self-pity and said, “You know what?  I’m really glad that I have so much pity for myself.  It’s actually making a difference in my life!”  I’ve never met anybody that was able to step back from that and go, “You know what’s really turned the corner for me?  The pity I feel for me!  It’s changed everything!”  I’ve never met anybody like that.  Neither have you, because it just doesn’t work that way.  So what if we allowed a new affection to drive us to praise rather than down and sulking in self-pity.

Two more things and then we’ll land the plane.  Genesis 30:1-2 — When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister.  She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”    This is identity tied up in producing kids, is it not?  If I don’t get that, my life isn’t worth living.  This is between two sisters who are married to the same guy, I mean, inevitably there’s going to be a few challenges there, I’ll just throw that out there.  People will rightfully point out that the Bible never condemns polygamy.  What I would say back is you’re right!  It also gives an example of it working out even remotely well!  You make the call.  Good luck!  She envied her.  You think??  And the feeling was mutual, because they each had what the other thought would fulfill their life and if they could’ve just sat down to have a conversation, what they would have told each other is I got what I thought I wanted and it wasn’t actually what I needed.  So what if we had a new affection that allowed us to choose encouragement over envy?

The early church fathers wrote about envy far more than we speak about it in modern Christianity.  One of our seminarians pointed out to me that here’s a great sermon called “On Envy” by one of the early church fathers, Saint Basil the Great.  Listen to what he says: “Nothing more destructive springs up in the souls of men than the passion of envy, which, while it does no harm to others, is the dominant and peculiar evil of the soul that harbors it.  As rust consumes iron, so does envy wholly consume the soul that it dwells in.”  Just this haunting picture, isn’t it?  When we live with envy, we are unable to encourage the people around us, because envy is the pain that arises at another person’s good pleasure.  Another person’s success.  If I’m envious of somebody, I cannot celebrate the fact that they are successful and that they have gotten to a place of walking in joy, because I view them as competition.  So, in a very real way, if we harbor envy in our souls and if we are on the throne of hearts, envy tends to be the way that we engage with the people around us.  If that’s true, it’s impossible for us to be authentic and real with anyone.  If I view you as competition, I can’t let you see the real me….in all of the brokenness, in all of the pain, in all of the regret, in all of the things that I carry.  I can’t share that with you if you’re competition.

The other thing it prevents me from doing is actually having friendships where I’m known, valued and loved by people that I care about.  Envy is this huge inhibitor.  In a story where you go well, it’s sort of strange, they’re married to the same guy, what if they had a new affection and they could actually walk with each other and be an encouragement to one another.  If you want to fight against envy in your life, here’s one of the ways you do it — by embracing the discipline of gratitude.  It’s hard to be envious of everybody else if you are aware of how good God has been to you.

Verse 19:   And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son.  Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons.”   Hellooooo! This is insane, is it not?  Unless they had a conversation where Jacob was like, “Hey, sweetie, I don’t like you if you give me five sons, but when we get number six that’s the magic pill right there!”  This is the action of an addict. If I just had a little bit more of what I already have, that will solve the problem that’s wearing away and eating at my soul.  That’s what’s going on.  If I just had a little bit more of what I have then I would be okay.  But this whole story revolves around what Leah or Rachel can produce and can give to Jacob in order to receive his love. Isn’t it true that so many of us buy that same lie?  That our worth is directly determined by what we produce—by the bottom line of what comes out of our life.  It all happens because we have a faulty thing on the throne of our lives, but if we had a new affection, what if we were able to value personhood, value people for who God created them to be, not for what they produced for us?  What if we were able to love people instead of use people?  To value personhood over production.

My guess is there’s a lot of moms here today and you’re going, “Paulson, I just wanted a Mother’s Day message.” Well, I would propose to you that you got one.  If you’re a mom in this place {would you look up at me a second}, if you’re a woman….  You want to be a great mom, you want to be a great friend, you want to be a great spouse, a caregiver……love Jesus more than you love anything else.  Put Him in his rightful spot and it will allow you to flourish in whatever role God has you in.  Because if you have Him as your ultimate affection, you’re able to engage in every other aspect in your life in the way that He designed you to live in.

If you’re thinking, “Paulson, why would you say that God is worthy of my affection?  That God’s worthy of being the ultimate.”  I would respond with, “That’s a good question,” and I’ll end with this—verse 22: Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.  She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.”  And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!”    This little line just stood out to me — God remembered Rachel.  I just want to say to you as clearly as I can this Mother’s Day, God remembers you.  God sees you.  Whatever season you find yourself in, whatever pain you’re walking through, whatever valley you’re in, whatever mountaintop you’re on, God sees you and God enters into your story, to humanity’s story, with His love and with His grace and with His mercy.  He sees you and He loves you.  God remembering me is my greatest hope—–I’m desperate without it.  If He doesn’t see me, if He doesn’t act, I am left without an anchor in a tumultuous sea.  God remembering me is my greatest hope and me remembering God is my greatest joy. To remember that in every season, He is good, He is present, He is there.  Because He is, I’m putting Him at the top as Lord, Savior, that He would reign over my life.  I would ask you to do the same thing!  Happy Mother’s Day!  Let’s close in prayer.

Before you go running out of here today, I want to give you space to breathe.  To remember God’s grace to you. You may be in a season where you wonder if He remembers.  I want to assure you that He does and that He’s good.  Lord, over all the mothers especially, I pray a blessing.  For the women in this room who nurture, who care, who pore into the lives of so many…those that are their kids and those whom they have taken under their wings to pore into, Lord, I pray would you strengthen them?  Would you uphold them?  And Lord, would you turn our eyes to Jesus—may He be our greatest affection, our greatest joy, the greatest beauty in our life and may the other things we’ve chased after grow strangely dim in the light of your glory and your grace?  And as we see you, may we walk rightly in the world that you’ve invited us to walk with you in?  Lord, we love you and are so grateful for the time that we’ve had together this morning.  Would you encourage us as we go in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people said……Amen.

Receive the benediction — May God bless you and keep you.  May He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.  May He turn His countenance towards you and give you peace.  In the name of Jesus.