Why You Should Visit an Eastern Church

I’ve been trying to invite some of my Roman Catholic friends to attend a Byzantine Divine Liturgy during the Easter season. I think that it’s really important for Roman Catholics to experience the traditions of their Eastern brothers and sisters. I grew up hearing my dad say (quoting one of his seminary professors) that Roman Catholics should attend a Byzantine Divine Liturgy so that they would understand what was going on when they got to heaven. I wouldn’t go around saying that to my friends, but I do have a few reasons why it is important for Roman Catholics to experience a Byzantine Liturgy.

Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Illinois

The word “catholic” means universal. The Catholic Church is not meant to be a set of cookie-cutter people who always look and act the same. Rather, it is intended to be a sign of what St. John Paul II called “diversity in unity” to the world. We as Eastern Catholics are called to a very present part of that. All Catholics (really, all Christians) are called to be lights of a unity through faith and love. To do this, we must come to understand the different branches of the Catholic Church. It is not enough for a Roman Catholic to only attend the Roman Catholic Mass or for a Byzantine Catholic to only attend the Byzantine Liturgy. We must partake in each other’s services. We must interact lovingly and respectfully with Catholics who are not from our Church.

Our Churches are not only for our own people but are also for any of our fellow Americans who are attracted to our traditions which show forth the beauty of the universal Church and the variety of its riches.

-Archbishop Joseph Tawil in “The Courage to be Ourselves”

It has been over 950 years since the Great Schism. We need to work towards a loving unity between East and West. Now, the average layperson can’t influence great change, but we can work towards better understanding among ourselves. It is important to know and understand one another’s traditions. The best way to understand the Eastern traditions is to encounter them. To that end, I would recommend that any Roman Catholic who is able visit an Eastern Catholic parish for a Divine Liturgy. (See the bottom of this article for a list of links to some of the American Eastern Catholic Eparchies’ websites.) You can’t really start to understand or appreciate something until you encounter it.

No witness perhaps better brings to light the Catholicity of the Church of God in a more admirable manner than the unique homage which is rendered to it by the differing ceremonies and the noble ancient languages all made more venerable by their use by the Apostles and Fathers.

-Pope Leo XIII “Orientalium Dignitas”

If you encounter the traditions of the other Catholic Churches, you’re doing what Jesus wanted you to do and what people like St. John Paul II thought you should do. On the eve of his Passion, Jesus prayed the unity of his followers. He prayed not only for the twelve good Jewish boys who were about to turn the world on its ear, but he also prayed for all who would come after them. If we only focus on our own traditions, we are not fully embracing that unity. Jesus prayed that we would be one as the Trinity is one. (John 17:20-23) Jesus didn’t pray that we would ignore one another or exclude one another. He did not pray that we would criticize one another or force others to assimilate to our traditions. Rather, he prayed that we would be one as the Trinity is one so that the world will know that the Father had sent the Son into the world. We need to embrace one another.

PA-18307918-800x500

His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and Pope Francis

If those two can hang out, so can we. Those two became friends when they were both in Buenos Aires. Now, they’re the heads of their respective Churches. They still get on with one another. Friendships between Christians of different traditions can be a sign of unity. We need to view each other as brothers and not as competition. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do need to love one another. Just because you pray the Rosary and I don’t, that doesn’t make us enemies. You may say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son; I do not say that. There are divisions between us, but we also have a great deal of common ground. What unites us is far greater than what divides us. We both believe that Jesus Christ is physically present in the Eucharist. We are able to receive the Eucharist in one another’s churches even if it doesn’t look or taste the same. We all believe that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Messiah who came into the world for the salvation of the world. We need to embrace that while celebrating our differences.

The Sacred Congregation has for its office and duty to uphold and foster as much as possible the venerable Oriental liturgies and to preserve them in their integrity and purity.

-Pope Benedict XV

So go to an Eastern Catholic Church. Heck, go to an Orthodox Church. Experience the liturgy. Ask questions. It will be different from what you’re used to, but that is okay. Going to a Roman Mass is different from what I’m used to, but I still go to Roman Masses when that is my best option or when it is an opportunity to support a friend in doing something beautiful.

St. Elias the Prophet in Brampton, Ontario

Here’s the bottom line. Jesus wants his Church to be one. He wants his Church to reflect the diverse unity of the Trinity. There is great beauty in our unity, and it pains the Father when we are divided from one another. I can honestly say that the disunity in our Churches causes me pain. John Paul II spoke of the need for the Church to breathe with her two lungs-East and West. Embrace these two lungs. Learn about your brothers and sisters. Come to an Eastern Liturgy. I can promise you that you will not regret it. You might even love it. St. Vladimir’s emissaries who visited the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople said that during the Divine Liturgy they knew not whether they were on heaven or on earth. Please come taste heaven on earth.


Notes:

I found the text of Archbishop Tawil’s “The Courage to Be Ourselves” on the Eparchy of Newton’s website.

This is the website for Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen. It is a beautiful church and a wonderful parish.

I included an image of St. Elias the Prophet’s building and a video filmed in that building. However, this building burned down about two years ago, and the parish is in the process of building a new Temple. However, that parish has one of my favorite YouTube channels, which happens excellent for learning more about Eastern Catholicism.

Links:

Eparchy of Parma (Ruthenian)

Eparchy of Parma (Ukrainian)

Archeparchy of Pittsbugh (Ruthenian)

Eparchy of Passaic (Ruthenian)

Eparchy of Phoenix (Ruthenian)

Eparchy of Newton (Melkite)

Eparchy of Philadelphia (Ukrainian)

The Beauty in Weakness

I’m not perfect.

I know. It’s shocking, right? A human being who isn’t perfect? Who could believe that?

Oh. Wait. Right…

I’m human. I’m not perfect. Sometimes I don’t do things right the first time. I screw up. I fail. I don’t do what I should do and I do what what I shouldn’t do.

This afternoon, I was thinking about three situations from the past few weeks in which I have felt weak or have shown weakness. One was a situation in which I had something wrong and needed to rectify the situation in some way. One was a situation in which I was in over my head and needed help. The third was a situation where I admitted that I was struggling with a variety of things at this point in my life.

The thing that I realized as I reflected on these situations is that our society does not have much use for weakness. We like strength. We like heroes. We don’t like failure. We like to believe in ourselves. We don’t like to admit when we’ve done something wrong, but we do like to point out what others have done wrong. We’re human. We like to be right. We like to have things together-or at least look like we do. We like to be in control.

But we’re not in control. We don’t have it all together. We aren’t always strong. We’re human. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t always wise. And yet, we struggle with weakness. Seeing weakness either in ourselves or in others can be difficult. It is a reminder that we are fallible beings.

In one of the situations I referenced earlier, the person did not want to hear about my weakness; she merely wanted to move past the situation. For me, this was hurtful because I had mentally prepared myself to admit my weakness and explain what I did, but she did not want that. I have to accept that. The situation is closed. I don’t know why she was unwilling to hear my explanation, but that does not matter. There are two lessons for me in this situation: Treat others better than I want to be treated and don’t repeat the mistake that got me into this situation.

The other two situations involved admitting my weakness to two different people who I know well enough to know that they are both women of strong faith. In one situation, the person chose to meet my practical needs in the moment. In the other, the person offered to pray with me in that moment. They acknowledged my weakness. They saw that there were things that they could do for me.

Those were both moments of grace for me. I saw Christ in those two women. He was using them. I acknowledged my weakness, and he filled in the gaps. He is God. He is strong. I’m human. I’m weak. But when I acknowledge that weakness, he can act through it. He can act through me. That’s the beauty of weakness. God can take our weaknesses and our brokennesses and turn them into moments of grace. It’s okay to be weak because weakness offers God a window to act.

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

-2 Corinthians 12:9

Would God give me something I can’t handle?

I recently heard a man I respect say, “People often say that God won’t give you anything that you can’t handle. I don’t think that is true. I think that God won’t give you anything that he can’t handle.”

I agree with that, and I’ve been thinking about it in respect to my own life. I’ve had a particularly difficult (from my own perspective) go of it the past two years. I’ve had things that I loved taken away from me. I have willingly walked away from things that I once thought that I wanted. My life has changed dramatically, and it hasn’t always been something that I’ve wanted or enjoyed. I’ve had to be brave and strong in times and in ways that I would have preferred to avoid. I’ve had a few people tell me that they admire how strong and brave and capable I’ve shown myself to be, but I struggle taking those compliments.

I struggle with them largely because I’m not getting through this on my own strength. On my own, I am not strong or brave or graceful or gracious. My own natural inclination is often to get angry or cry; I have cried many times in all of this. I’ve acted against my inclination too many times to believe that the reason that I’m getting through this on my own power. When people see me being brave or strong, that’s God working in me and through me. He’s getting me through this; he’s handling it. I don’t understand what he’s doing, but I know that he’s in control. I don’t know where we’re going. I don’t know what will happen on the way. But I do know who is driving.

My natural inclinations send me to some pretty dark places. And those dark places are part of the reason that I struggle with the idea that God wouldn’t bring me to something that I couldn’t handle. On my own, I struggle to believe that anything good could ever come from my current circumstances. I struggle to believe that I could ever have good things. I doubt that my job situation will ever improve, that I will ever have joy.

This situation is more than I can handle. In fact, it is far more than I can handle. But it is not more than God can handle. The goal is not for me to become stronger on my own. The goal isn’t for me to handle this on my own. The goal is for me to hand this over to the Lord each day and get through the day on his grace, on his strength, on his power. I’m not supposed to get me through the day. He is supposed to do it. He didn’t bring me to this season of my life to make me into Superwoman. He brought me to this season of my life to teach me to surrender to him and to teach me to allow him to be in control. He who walked on the stormy Sea of Galilee can handle this season of my life. He can handle all seasons of my life, and he won’t give me anything in any of those seasons that he cannot handle.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

-Philippians 4:13

A Hard Call

(Note: This is not intended to be anything more than my own thoughts and reflections. It is not the be-all and end-all of anything. It is not a condemnation of anyone else or meant to be hurtful towards anyone. It’s just my thoughts.)

For as long as I can remember, Christian unity has been a cause that was near and dear to my heart. I’ve long held that John 17:20-23 is one of my favorite passages. Growing up in an ecumenical community, I was profoundly aware that Christians of different denominations could work and pray together. I saw this happen in prayer meetings and at the summer camps I attended. On the other hand, growing up Byzantine Catholic and attending Roman Catholic schools showed me firsthand some of the deeper divisions among Christians.

I grew up with a strong awareness that I was different from my RC peers. No one ever intentionally tried to make me feel like I was different, but it was hard to hide from the facts. I was able to receive the Eucharist before any of my peers. My peers mostly went to churches that were near their homes while my family drove 35+ minutes to church. I made the Sign of the Cross differently. On the rare occasions that we said the Nicene Creed, I clamped my mouth shut for three words. I had no problems saying “Alleluia!” during Lent. I didn’t see my school friends at church. I was different.

And I was deeply aware of the brokenness of the Body of Christ. I saw the brokenness in the differences between myself and my classmates. (“You’re making the Sign of the Cross wrong again!”) I saw the brokenness in the fact that my RC friends would decline my invitations to attend church with me. (“I’m just not into that kind of thing.”) I saw the brokenness in the differing liturgical calendars between different faith traditions. (“Why do you have to go to church tonight? Ascension is on Sunday.”)

I found it painful to see this brokenness, and as I grew up, I had a variety of reactions to it. When I was in early high school, I went through a phase where I thought that the best way to resolve this issue was to teach others about my church and encourage them to visit it. Nothing really happened. My brother had friends who were interested in our church, but I didn’t. That hurt me even though I wasn’t good at verbalizing my hurt.

Then, I tried to avoid the brokenness; I didn’t want to deal with it. From about age 16 until about age 24 or 25, I went through a several year period where I really hated seeing differences and divisions. I wanted to ignore them. I wasn’t happy being Byzantine Catholic because it made me weird and different and unusual. I wanted to be Roman Catholic. I talked about how I wanted to marry a Roman Catholic man so I wouldn’t have to be Byzantine anymore.

Why did I want to be Roman Catholic? I didn’t want to be weird. I didn’t want to be different. I had all kinds of excuses for why I wanted to leave the Byzantine Catholic Church, but really, when I sat down at about age 24 and confronted myself, I only wanted to leave the East because I didn’t like being different. I was sick of being one of only a very few young women in the church I attended. I was sick of being different from my friends.

Somewhere around age 25, I came to see that I am called to be Byzantine Catholic at this point in my life. As I came to this realization, I saw that while the Body of Christ is broken, there is beauty in this broken Body. There is beauty in our unity. The call to unity is a hard call. There are things that we do not share. I still clamp my mouth shut for three words every time I attend a Roman Mass at which we pray the Nicene Creed. I make the Sign of the Cross differently from my friends. We don’t always share the same feasts. I can’t receive the Eucharist in an Orthodox Church. I almost laughed in a friend’s face once as she expostulated on how wonderful it is that no matter where you go in the world every Catholic Mass looks pretty much the same. (Oh darling, you meant to say Roman Catholic Mass.) I occasionally resist the urge to email various Catholic bloggers and ask them to please specify that they are Roman Catholic and that not everything that they say is true for all Catholics is actually true for all Catholics.

It’s hard. It is hard to share a common life with people who do not share all of our traditions. It can be hard to know how to approach certain situations in an ecumenical context. How do you discuss certain things? What topics should you avoid? And I don’t have any easy answers to those questions. I don’t know what the right things to do are all of the time. I don’t even know how make certain things stop bothering/troubling me. I screw up plenty in this regard. I’m sure that I offend people at times. Heck, knowing me, I’m probably offending someone with this post.

“May the Holy Spirit guide us along the way of reconciliation, so that the unity of our Churches may become an ever more radiant sign of hope and consolation for all mankind.”

-Paul VI

But I know that unity matters. I know that unity is important to the Body of Christ. I know that the Trinity is Three Persons in One God; the Trinity is our model for unity. I don’t know how to fix difficulties between Churches. But I pray for God to make us one as the Trinity is One. I pray for healing of wounds and restoration of relationships. I pray for bridges to be built. I pray for Church leaders to be given wisdom and hope.

I don’t want to change people’s minds. I don’t want to force my RC friends to become Byzantine Catholic-although I would love it if they had a greater knowledge of my Church. I want to promote understanding. I want to encourage people to understand one another more and love one another more deeply. I want to encourage people to pray for unity and to work for unity. I know that Jesus wants unity. I know that only he can heal our wounds, and I know that he wants to do so.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”

-John 17: 20-23

Father, make us one. Show us how to love as you love.

Be.

In the fall of 2012 as my beloved Detroit Tigers were making an epic playoff run, I discovered the song “Hall of Fame” by The Script featuring will.i.am.

At the time, the song was about sports for me. But this past fall, I encountered the song in a different context. What if this song could be used to remind young people about the importance of the Saints?

I’ve always been struck by the lyrics of the whole song, but the rap has especially struck me.

Be students, be teachers
Be politicians, be preachers

Be believers, be leaders
Be astronauts Be champions
Be true seekers

Be students, be teachers
Be politicians, be preachers

Be believers, be leaders
Be astronauts, be champions

To me, the main message of that is BE. Do something with your life. Make something out of yourself. God has put you on this earth for a relatively brief time. Use that time wisely.

I wanted my students to meet the great Saints. I wanted them to get to know the people who “burned with the brightest flame” as the song says. So, using Hebrews 12:1-2 as my theme, I gave them a research project to research Saints of the twentieth century.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I wanted them to meet Gianna Molla and Chiara Luce Badano. I wanted them to meet Josemaria Escriva and Pier Giorgio Frassati. Who were these people?

Some died young. Some lived long lives. Some were priests or nuns or even Popes. (Blessed be God who gave us such holy Popes during the 20th century!) Some were missionaries. Some were mothers. Some were martyrs. All of them loved Jesus.

I wanted them to see that they can be saints too. They can be holy. They too can put their hearts near the heart of Christ.

If I could teach these children one thing, it would be that they can saints. We are all called to be saints. Christ desires that we become holy. Christ desires that we join Gianna and Josemaria in the Hall of Fame.

In addition to their essays, I asked my students to present their Saints to their peers. I wanted them to share these people with one another so that they could come to know these holy men and women. However, in addition to their presentations, I made a video for them featuring photographs of and quotes from their Saints as well as other favorites of mine. I used “Hall of Fame” as the background music on the video.

I showed them the video yesterday, and today one of my students asked me if we could listen to “your saint song” again. She told me that she thought it was a good reminder that they can be Saints, that they’re called to the hall of fame; they’re called to heaven.

That was my point. We are called to run after Jesus like the Saints who have gone before us have. We are called to be holy. We are called to be students, to be teachers, to be preachers, to be politicians, to be believers, to be leaders, to be astronauts, to be truth seekers…we are called to be Saints.

“Life holds only one tragedy: not to have been a saint.”

-Charles Peguy

“I know of nothing else that can save this civilization except saints. Please be one.”

-Dr. Peter Kreeft

When the First and the Last Concur

Today is a paradox. It is a mystery. Behold, God is conceived. But also behold, God dies. Today, we as Eastern Catholics celebrate two of the most important feasts on our calendar, and they are a seeming contradiction when placed together. March 25 is always the Feast of the Annunciation, the feast of the Incarnation of our Lord. It is the day when we celebrate the visit by the archangel Gabriel to the Theotokos in which Mary learned she was to be the Mother of the Christ.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

But it is also Good Friday, the day when we celebrate the Passion and Death of Jesus. We commemorate his brutal saving Passion.

“And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 23:46)

The two feasts appear to be contradictory. How can we honor the Incarnation of Christ and His Death at the same time? Our Roman Catholic (and certain Eastern Churches) brothers transfer the Feast of the Annunciation to another day. We do not. How can we do this?

Well, practically speaking, we haul out some special rubrics and we celebrate Entombment Vespers (my second favorite Byzantine service) followed by the Divine Liturgy for the Annunciation followed by the Procession with the Shroud and Veneration of the Shroud. It is beautiful. We have special books made. We pray for our clergy and cantors. It works. It is beautiful.

But why do we do it?

I could be sassy and say that we’re Byzantine Catholics. We like mysteries. (I mean, we do…) But there is more to it than that. We believe that feasts of the Incarnation trump solemnities. Also, in the early Church, the two feasts were celebrated together. (That’s also when we believe that a multitude of events occurred including Noah’s Ark coming to rest on Mount Ararat, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, and the Destruction of the Ring of Power on Mount Doom.) We believe that they are inextricably linked as two of the three most important mysteries of our salvation. Together with the Resurrection, which follows on the 27th, these events usher in a new springtime or a season of new life. (Here’s a great article that looks at that in more depth.)

There is an odd beauty in this paradox. The immortal God becomes a human child in the womb of a teenaged woman and the immortal God surrenders his life for the salvation of all humanity. It is the ultimate feast of the Divine Condescension. On their own, each of these feasts allow us to see the love of God and the humility of God in a clearer way. Together, they are a formidable reminder of just how much God loves us and just how far he is willing to go to be with us.

The beauty of Christianity is that it introduces us to a God who loved us so much that he could not bear to be apart from us. Because of that, He sent His Son into the world (the Annunciation) so that the Son could die (Good Friday) for the salvation of all mankind. In many ways, it is meet and just that these two feasts should coincide.

In 1608, these two feasts overlapped, and the poet and future Anglican priest John Donne wrote a beautiful reflection on this. Donne looks at Mary who both becomes a mother and surrenders her only child on this joined feast. He looks at the gift the Church gives us by uniting these feasts and allowing us to contemplate Christ’s love for us and his humility.

This Church by letting those days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one ;
Or ’twas in Him the same humility,
That He would be a man, and leave to be ;
Or as creation He hath made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,

This day is ultimately a reflection on the humility of Christ. God became man, as St. Athanasius said, so that man might become gods. He became human to unite us to Himself. He joined Himself to our lowly state so that He might unite us to His divine state. That is love. That is humility. And so, it is (to me) truly right that (when the calendar so allows) we celebrate the Annunciation and the Passion in one day. It is good that we are reminded of just how much our God loves us. And what better way to remind us of that than to give us what appeared to be the first and the last of the life of Jesus in one day?


(The publication time for this post was very carefully chosen. It is intentional.)

NB: I know that John Donne wasn’t perfect.

What can Rachel say to us?

Over the past few months, I’ve really been struggling with my relationship status. I’m single, I’ve been single for a long time, and that doesn’t seem to be changing. I look at my life. I’m twenty-seven, which is young in the grand scheme of things. It’s not my age that worries me. I’m Byzantine Catholic, which puts me in a small branch of the Church, and I’m active in a charismatic ecumenical covenant community. This is where I feel that my trouble lies. I exist in two worlds that don’t really mesh well. They can mesh well, but they tend not to. I don’t know any men (who aren’t my relatives) who bridge those worlds. I want to build my life in those two worlds. I want to marry in (if I ever marry) and raise my children (if I ever have any) in the Byzantine Catholic Church and in the community I mentioned above. That doesn’t seem like a likely possibility for me. And for better or worse, I’ve kind of given up hope of ever getting married.

As I read one of the first chapters of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, I was struck by the way the narrator of that particular chapter (Leah Price) described the Biblical character of Rachel. Leah talked about how Rachel “waited all those years” to marry Jacob. In the story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, I’ve often thought about how difficult it had to be for Jacob to get the wrong wife and to have to work for fourteen years to marry Rachel. I’ve thought about how hard it would be to be Leah, the unwanted wife. But I’ve always kind of written Rachel off as a spoiled brat.

And now, I’m not so sure about that. I think that Rachel and I might have more in common than I might have previously noticed. The poor woman waited fourteen years to marry the love of her life. In a time when a woman’s worth was almost entirely based on her ability to marry and bear children, Rachel couldn’t get married because her father wouldn’t let her. There was a man standing right there, a good man, who wanted to marry her, and she couldn’t get married. Rachel waited for fourteen years.

That’s not an aspect of Rachel that I think we often consider. We see her as the more beloved wife, the mother of the beloved sons, Joseph and Benjamin. But we don’t tend to look at her as the woman who steadfastly waits through all of Laban’s machinations to marry Jacob. We only see the story through Jacob’s eyes, and we never really see how Leah or Rachel feels as their father (typical of that time in the world) uses them in pawns in his own games. It can’t have been easy. I’m sure that they complained every now and then. They must have wondered what their father was thinking. I’m sure that Rachel had moments when she thought that Jacob would give up on her and leave.

But Rachel waited fourteen years for Jacob. We remember her as a wife and a mother. We know that she was jealous of Leah when the older sister had children first. Dan and Naphtali are, in many ways, the children of her envy. Jeremiah describes her as the voice weeping without comfort over the innocent dead. (Jeremiah 31:15) But there had to be more to her. What kind of woman waits fourteen years to marry and then waits years unknown for the birth of children?

I have to think that Rachel was a patient woman. Perhaps longsuffering is a better word. She gave Dan and Naphtali names that reference the Lord as our judge and as our victory. When, as Genesis puts it, the Lord remembered Rachel and she bore Joseph, she said that God had taken away her reproach. (Genesis 30:23-24) To me, this speaks of a woman who is largely patient with life. She isn’t perfect, but she trusts the Lord. Yes, she tries to fix things on her own at times (stealing her father’s household gods, anyone?), but largely, she trusts the Lord. She believes that he has a plan and good will come to her. Life may not go exactly the way that she wants, but in the end, she has Joseph and Benjamin as well as Dan and Naphtali.

I’m sure that she never planned on waiting fourteen years to marry Jacob. I’m sure that the waiting was difficult for her. But she did it. She may never have understood why she went through these difficulties. She didn’t live to see her sons become men as she died giving birth to Benjamin. (Genesis 35:18) But she did play an important role in salvation history. Her sons were crucial, each in their own way, to the history of their family and of the nation that would come from their family.

So what lesson do I draw from all of this? Be patient, and trust in the Lord. We as humans can never see his full plan. We may not always understand what he is doing, but he will work all things to good for those who love him. We need to avoid trying to force things or holding onto the gods of this world. As God worked great things in and through Rachel’s life, he can do the same for us.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:38)