Words by Nicole O'Meara | Illustrations by Marie Warner Preston
He looked up and noticed me. Me! One of the popular boys in junior high saw me walking in his direction and perked up: “Nicole!” He smiled and opened his arms as if to give me a hug. I stumbled a bit but willed my feet to move forward. My heart beat faster. He stepped closer until, with arms wide open, he walked right past me. I turned and watched as he hugged the girl behind me. In a flash, I understood. Behind me was a more popular Nicole. Pretending not to notice, I turned quickly and walked away before anyone noticed the heat of embarrassment creep into my cheeks. I should’ve known.
Similarly, Jacob doesn’t see Leah—doesn’t even notice her, actually. Genesis 29:17-18 says it like it is: “Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel.” There are numerous ways we could read this description of Leah. ‘Weak eyes’ could mean she doesn’t see well; it could describe the colour or shape of her eyes; or it could describe a less than sparkly personality. Regardless of the meaning, though, according to the standards of her day, Leah doesn’t rate—and she knows it.
Still unmarried and living at home, Leah endures the pain of watching her younger sister draw the attention of Jacob. In further humiliation, Leah’s father uses her to manipulate Jacob, trading her for Rachel on their wedding night (vv.23-25). The next morning, when Jacob finds Leah in bed beside him, he is outraged. He had fallen in love with Rachel the moment he saw her at the well (v.10-11) and then spent seven long years working unpaid for the privilege of making her his wife. He does not want Leah—he wants Rachel! Once again, Leah is overlooked, unprotected, and rejected.
If I had lived in Leah’s day, I likely would have been overlooked, too. I have poor eyesight and wore ugly glasses as a child (there are much cuter options nowadays). I’m short, reserved, and just not as charismatic as some. After years of feeling overlooked, I began to believe I wasn’t worthy of being noticed. I hid my body inside oversized clothes and my true sensitive personality inside that of an overlooked person. I moved as if I were invisible, avoiding people and hoping they would avoid me. In a weird way, I enjoyed being overlooked because it protected me from the discomfort of accidentally thinking someone noticed me, like that day in junior high. It’s a sad way to live.
Leah shows us a better way. She is treated poorly, yet when she names her first son Reuben, which means “because the Lord has seen my misery,” Leah reveals a heart comforted by God who knows her pain (v.32). She understands that God sees her even though the people around her don't.
Jacob overlooks Leah, and in the process, he misses something great: Leah’s tremendous faith. Instead of living crushed because she is not loved by her father or her husband, Leah chooses to believe God loves her and has a good plan for her. And He does! God gives Leah, not Rachel, the privilege of beginning the line of Israel’s kings through her son, Judah—a royal line that includes King David, and eventually, King Jesus.
Our God is El Roi, the God who sees (Genesis 16:13; Matthew 6:26); God saw Leah, and He sees each one of us. His love for us is higher and longer and wider and deeper than we can imagine (Ephesians 3:18). He is a good Father with a good plan for our lives. When we learn to see ourselves as He does, we find the confidence we need to live out those plans.
Invite the Father to show you how He sees you. What words and images does He bring to mind? Are there any changes you need to make in light of this renewed perspective?