I lie on the bed and struggle to breathe. I clutch at my chest, the pain weighing heavy on me.
I’ve never had a panic attack before, but I am, for whatever reason, sure that that is what is happening to me now.
My head is clear, like I’m watching myself from a distance.
“Erin, just stop,” I tell myself. “Breathe.”
But it doesn’t do any good. My frightened husband tries to calm me; he tells my daughter that Mommy is sick when she comes in the room and sees her mama lie there with tears streaming and breathe escaping.
And I know it then: Everything is going to change.
The doctor spoke it very decidedly: anxiety.
He’d said it in his Aussie accent, that I needed rest, real rest. Which we knew meant at least one thing concretely: our plans would be changing. Again.
We thought we were finally hitting the plateau after the strenuous, uphill climb that has been our first year in Papua New Guinea, but now again we find ourselves asking God just what in the world is He doing?
What do you do when you’ve been working toward Rachel, but the Father gives you Leah instead? And you find out you have to work seven more years to marry your love, your dream? What do you do when you awaken in the bridal bed to a face different than that who you have labored and sweated over?
“So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days… But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! ‘What have you done to me?’ Jacob raged at Laban. ‘I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?’… So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban the additional seven years.” Genesis 29:20, 25, 30
Leah gave Jacob six sons and a daughter. She gave him his firstborn, his honor and heir. She gave him Judah, the line from which the Son of God would be born unto man. And yet, Jacob did not love her.
I’m finding it difficult to balance between living in the present moment and dreaming about the future.
For we all dream marvelous, wild dreams, but are at the same time forced to live out the days leading up to those dreams, forced to work and toil, forced to look upon the prize, but not touch her; to love her from a longing distance. Forced to deal with pain and loss in the intermittent, to face changes to our plans.
So what do you do when your plans change?
You learn to love and value Leah.
You learn to give thanks for her. You rejoice over her fruits. You find her beauty when, in your eyes, she falls so short when compared to Rachel. And most of all, you learn to keep trusting the Father.
Because often we don’t understand why He lets painful things happen, why the journey seems wrought with changes when we long for stability. But we hold fast to this eternal truth: He is good.
And He’s working things out for us:
“The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.” Psalm 138:8
And He love us. Oh, how He loves us.
So we hold loosely to our plans and our dreams, and hold fast to God. And we learn to love Leah.