15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you, therefore, serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were lovely,[U] and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. 18 Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.–Genesis 29:15-20, NRSV
I don’t think that I ever compared my two daughters. I have always seen each of them as incomparable, unique. No one, except the unobservant among my current church members, mistakes each for the other. They look nothing alike, yet both are beautiful and smart, like their mother. However, that’s where the similarities seem to end. In virtually every other way, they are very different–not opposites but opposites in terms of personality.
While their mother and I have done our best never to compare them, I have learned, through my daughters, that sometimes members of EBC have made comparisons between them, some subtle and others not so subtle. I find such comparisons unhelpful, unflattering, and unfortunate. No one likes to be compared. Everyone likes to stand on her/his own merits. At least, I know I do. I wouldn’t want anyone comparing me to any of my six siblings, especially my three brothers—each of whom is gifted in his own right (And, it goes without saying that my sisters are the sharpest knives in the sibling drawer). Each of us, after all, are uniquely wired and packaged, even though we share certain traits in terms of temperament, mannerisms, and physical features.
It’s unclear whether or not Leah and Rachel were similar in makeup–be it personality or physicality. What is clear, nevertheless, is that people tended to compare the two of them. Their father was Laban is one, Jacob, their future husband is another, and it would seem the editor of Genesis was another. Look at line 17 in the NIV of Chapter 27, which reads very differently than the NRSV, posted above: 17 Leah had weak[W] eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Is it significant that all of those who did the comparing where male? Perhaps. However, in a patriarchal culture, women do not always see one another as sistahs, but rather as competitors vying for the affection, trophies, and attentions of men.
In ever increasing contrasts, women of God, however, must learn to see themselves through God’s eyes and no one else’s. They should be free of preconceived notions of femininity, beauty, and sexuality. They should live not to compete with anyone else, especially another women, but rather they stand in solidarity with and acceptance of others, who perceive, walk in, and pursue their God-given worth and purpose.
Are you living in competition with anyone else? Notwithstanding the fact that you are an adult, do you still find yourself comparing yourself to and competing with others, as you have may have felt you had to do at home or school, for the attention, affirmation, and acceptance of those who perceived to be the possessor of and arbiters of status? When will you embrace and live out of the truth that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and God’s precious work product (Ephesians 2:10)? Now might be a good time to do so!