The hard lesson my daughter’s namesake learned

by Kyle
published November 30, 2012


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One of the strangest experiences of my life was sitting down with my wife and deciding together what another person should be called for the rest of her life. Our daughter will be a year old soon, and I’ve been thinking back about her short life and why we called her what we did.

It really was a daunting task to think of something. It had to sound good. More importantly, it had to sound good to my wife Megan. It couldn’t be easily subject to playground ridicule (Dorcas from Acts 9 just wasn’t a suitable namesake). It also had to mean something.

I started thinking about the kind of woman I wanted my daughter to grow up to be.

I wouldn’t complain one bit if she turned out to be like her mother. I really love my daughter’s mother, and Leah would be blessed to turn out anything like her. My wife is the sort of high-caliber woman I would have never even thought to ask for as a wife because, before her, I didn’t know they existed.

Then a disturbing thought occurred to me: What if she turned out to be more like me? What if she accidentally caught my wry, sarcastic humor or my obsessive, exhausting pursuit to always do more, never satisfied that the things she already does are enough? As I plan to be part of her life, she might foolishly imitate me.

Then again, she might turn out entirely different from me and Megan both.

Unable to predict many details, we were left to finding the one root — the foundationally defining thing — we wanted to raise our daughter to know or be.

We picked “Leah.”

Genesis 29 tells Leah’s story. Her husband Jacob was tricked into marrying her and worked another seven years to take the wife he actually wanted: her sister. Leah was pawned off on someone else by her father and unloved by her husband. The two men who were supposed to be the most loving and influential in a woman’s life had utterly failed Leah. I can’t imagine the hurt.

God saw this and made her “fruitful.” In that culture — right or wrong — women who bore sons were honored the most. Leah really wanted the sort of respect bearing sons would bring, thinking it would cause her husband to love her. Shamelessly, this man who blatantly didn’t love her was still having sex with her, and children ensued.

She had four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.

Reuben’s name belies her heart’s condition. It means, “See, a son!” When he was born, Leah said, “Surely now my husband will love me.”

Simeon’s name reveals that not much had changed with Jacob since Reuben. It means “to be heard,” because she said, “The Lord has heard that I am unloved.” Still, no love from Jacob.

Jacob still hadn’t learned to be a good husband by son number 3. Levi means “attached.” Leah thought that surely, after an unheard-of three sons, her husband would be at least affectionately attached to her. How do you think that turned out for her?

Unlike the others, the fourth son’s name surprisingly had nothing to do with her husband. When Judah was born, Leah said, “This time, I will praise the Lord.” Judah means “Praise!” Something changed, but I suspect it had nothing to do with Jacob.

After the fourth son, the last verse in Genesis 29 says, “Then she stopped bearing.” Read: “Then she learned what she needed to know all along.”

I think Leah had learned that nothing, not even bearing four sons, would make Jacob love her. She learned that, despite the abominable moral failures of both her father and her husband, there was one who would never fail her, and for that deserves her praise.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Jacob later gave the birthright to Judah. With that, God’s promise to Abraham to bless the nations of the earth would be fulfilled through Judah. Jesus Christ, who saved you and me, came from the line of Judah. Otherwise worded, the salvation of the world was, in part, effected by Leah’s lesson to trust and praise God.

I will undoubtedly fail my daughter in some way (though certainly not like her namesake’s father did), and the boys and men and eventual husband that comes along will also fail to love her perfectly. In fact, the majority of people she will ever meet will probably hurt her, and the ones who don’t will simply lack the opportunity.

Welcome to humanity, little girl.

The “the foundationally defining thing” I want you to know and trust for your life — like your namesake had to learn the hard way — is that there is only One who will never fail you, One who will always love you perfectly even if it doesn’t feel like it and He alone deserves your praise.

Leah, you will turn one year old next week, and in the coming years, the only thing I want for your life is for you to “praise God.”

What do you think?

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