Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.” Genesis 30:3
When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Genesis 30:9
What’s your first thought when you read those two verses? Mine was, “What is wrong with these women?” It’s easy to look at these women from our modern Western eyes and only see . . . well, the crazy side.
It’s difficult for us to imagine the ridicule and shame women experienced in Biblical times when they were unable to have children. Now, we are blessed with lots of medical technology that can assist women with conceiving. I know women who have tried for years, paid thousands of dollars, endured hormonal swings due to medication, and everything from injections to invasive procedures to have the children their heart’s desire, but NEVER did I EVER hear one of them share they gave their husband a new lover to bear them a child. A surrogate is one thing, but a lover is quite another.
In Biblical times, reproduction was vital to continuing the family line and earned you honor and respect with your husband and family. It must have been heartbreaking enough for women who had a difficult time conceiving. The maternal heartbreak along with the outside pressure and judgment from society must have been crushing.
I used to struggle with reading these things in the Bible. How could all these people who were Biblical leaders, that I sang songs about in vacation Bible school and the pastors teach about, be so quick to turn to multiple wives, idols, and sins? Now, I look at it from another perspective.
I find comfort in knowing:
- Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean that God was OK with it.
- God is big enough to work around my mess (whatever that may be) and use me for His glory if I have a willing heart no matter what my current state.
- God extends grace and forgiveness when we take the wrong path
However, I feel it’s important to remember:
God forgives, but the natural consequences still remain. They do not dissolve away like our sins do with the grace of God. The actions we take now will continue to ripple through our lives and all through the lives of our descendants. I guess the question is what kind of ripple to do we reverberating through the generations to come? It’s a convicting thought, but one I try to keep on the forefront of my mind and heart as I wake up each day and touch the world with my words, actions, and deeds.
Do we want waves of anger, hatred, division, slander, cruelty, and bitterness rolling over future generations or do we want tides of love, grace, peace, forgiveness, mercy, and truth to wash over them?
I see ripples in my extended family that are unhealthy and will continue until hearts are softened and control is released. We can’t control the ripple effects of others, but we can seek to make our own waves those of restoration and not destruction.