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Synopsis of: Made in Heaven-Some Assembly Required – Valentine’s Day
Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from:
Genesis 29:1-14 Jacob hurried on, finally arriving in the land of the east. 2 He saw in the distance three flocks of sheep lying in an open field beside a well, waiting to be watered. But a heavy stone covered the mouth of the well. 3 It was the custom there to wait for all the flocks to arrive before removing the stone. After watering them, the stone would be rolled back over the mouth of the well. 4 Jacob went over to the shepherds and asked them, “Where do you live?” “At Haran,” they said. 5 “Do you know a man there named Laban, the grandson of Nahor?” “Yes, we do,” they replied. 6 “How is he?” Jacob asked. “He’s well and prosperous. Look, here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.” 7 “Why don’t you water the flocks so they can get back to grazing?” Jacob asked. “They’ll be hungry if you stop so early in the day.” 8 “We don’t roll away the stone and begin the watering until all the flocks and shepherds are here,” they replied. 9 As this conversation was going on, Rachel arrived with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.
10 And because she was his cousin, the daughter of his mother’s brother, and because the sheep were his uncle’s, Jacob went over to the well and rolled away the stone and watered his uncle’s flock. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and tears came to his eyes.
12 He explained that he was her cousin on her father’s side, her aunt Rebekah’s son. So Rachel quickly ran and told her father, Laban. 13 As soon as Laban heard about Jacob’s arrival, he rushed out to meet him and greeted him warmly. Laban then brought him home, and Jacob told him his story. 14 “Just think, my very own flesh and blood!” Laban exclaimed. After Jacob had been there about a month, 15 Laban said to him, “You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. How much do you want?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters: Leah, who was the oldest, and her younger sister, Rachel. 17 Leah had pretty eyes, but Rachel was beautiful in every way, with a lovely face and shapely figure. 18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.” 19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to someone outside the family.” 20 So Jacob spent the next seven years working to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days. 21 Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my contract,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so we can be married.” 22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood to celebrate with Jacob at a wedding feast. 23 That night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her. 24 And Laban gave Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid. 25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning – it was Leah! “What sort of trick is this?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel. What do you mean by this trickery?” 26 “It’s not our custom to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied. 27 “Wait until the bridal week is over, and you can have Rachel, too – that is, if you promise to work another seven years for me.” 28 So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too. 29 And Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid. 30 So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her more than Leah. He then stayed and worked the additional seven years.
This is one of the greatest love story in scriptures; and befitting a Valentin’s Day message and this is the Sunday nearest to Valentine’s Day. I have regularly spoken of love, marriage and romance. For while the New Testament is filled with words about love, warnings concerning love, and Paul’s much-quoted definition of love (which we read to brides, even though it was originally written to churches), it is the Old Testament that is filled with lovers. Some of their stories, pretty. Others, less so. Some of the lovers, faithful. Others, less so.
Truth be told, one of the most beautiful lines ever written about romance is found in the book of Genesis when, after working seven very long and very hard years for his future father-in-law (in return for permission to marry his daughter), it was written:
When I was a kid in grade school, sending and receiving valentines was more about popularity than affection. Getting a bunch meant that you were the king or queen of the class. Getting a few meant that you were the dud or crud of the class. Reading them was fun. But counting them (assuming there were enough to cover your desk and spill onto the floor) was even more fun.
I don’t know what you do for Valentine’s Day …. but any day devoted to shooting arrows into hearts for purposes of romance rather than murder can’t be a bad day. Besides, it leads to interesting features in newspapers the week prior to the event. Last year’s stories included the ten most romantic movies to rent, the ten most romantic CD’s to play, and the ten most romantic restaurants to reserve.
But my favorite stories this year start with the husband who, walking through the mall with his three kids in tow, told the interviewer he was headed to Victoria’s Secret where he planned to spend $300 on his wife. (I found myself wondering how he was going to explain his purchases to his kids: “What’s Mommy going to do with those things, Daddy?”)
As I have told you on other occasions, I have spent time with the star struck couples. For the best way to spark conversation among those about to be married is to ask them where they met….how they met….how long ago they met….whether they felt anything (or even liked each other) when they met….and how they got from meeting to dating, dating to engaging, and engaging to committing. Such stories are icebreakers, given that very few couples really want to talk to preachers, but almost all couples love to talk about themselves.
Or, to boil it down to something you can remember and talk about at lunch, the majority of my brides are 28, the length of most courtships is four years, and the greatest majority of about-to-be-weds were either introduced by friends or began as friends….often for a considerable period of time before somebody made a move that turned the friendship into something romantic.
Still, a few people tell of love at first sight. Every now and then, someone will say: “We met, and later that night I told my best friend, ‘I’ve just met the person I’m going to marry.'” I always like those stories, given that I was “hooked” in the fourth or fifth hour of our eleven-hour first date. Which Jacob would have understood, given that he fell both early and hard….for Rachel, mind you. This is the story for this day. And it may be one of the more lovely (and quite possibly, only) “boy meets girl” story in holy scripture.
What matters is that sparks fly between them. At this point we might cue the violins, if you please. Remember the stone that requires several men to move it? Well, Jacob rolls it away single-handedly. Whereupon he waters Rachel’s flocks, kisses Rachel’s lips, and breaks into tears. After which he waits seven years, followed by an additional seven years, to marry her….working all that time for her father. And the Bible says: “Those years seemed to him as but a few days, so great was his love for her.”
Jacob and Rachel met at a well….kissed at a well…and fell in love at a well (or a watering hole, if you will). And although everybody claims to hate such places (watering holes, I mean), you’d be surprised how many people actually meet at watering holes today. Take away that possibility and many night clubs might go out of business.
As it concerns the meeting of lovers, is it fate ?? Well, when it works, it feels that way. Is it God ?? Again, when it works, it feels that way. When two people tell me they were “meant to be together,” I figure they are talking the language of ecstasy more than the language of theology.
They are saying…..What we’ve found….what we feel….indeed, what we have is so deep, so moving, so profound, so life-affirming and life-redirecting (“I mean, I wasn’t looking for anybody at this point in my life”), it must have its origin in hands greater than ours and a Mind greater than mine.
Fifty years ago, we would have sat around the campfire and sang: I really think that God above created you for me to love, He picked you out from all the rest because God knew I’d love you best.
I believe God to be in the steering business (albeit with a lot of play in the steering wheel), I will gladly concede that heaven may have something to do with fluttering hearts and all that follows. Although a fifty percent divorce rate confounds such a philosophy, leading me to ask: “Does God mislead, or do we misread?”
Which is why many of us try to hedge our bets with science….most recently, computer science. I don’t know about you, but I hear at least twenty daily messages on T.V. from people claiming to have met their soul mates on eharmony.com. In fact, just recently I talked to a fellow who met his fiance’ on eharmony.com. What he described was a variation on the decades-old computer matching game, only this time using the internet.
So I asked this fellow to describe his experience. Once his data was made available to the general public, he got eighty hits on his profile. From the eighty hits, he got twenty-two extended internet conversations with females. From the twenty-two extended conversations, he got ten first dates. From the ten first dates, he got one second date. And the second date failed to yield a third date. Which was when he decided to redo his profile. Starting from scratch, he was more successful in the second round. He met “Wanda Wonderful.” And they were married recently.
Which means that no matter how perfect the methodology, it can’t guarantee chemistry.
Still, when it comes to meeting and mating, street wisdom has its place. Do opposites attract? Sure. But should you also have something in common? Sure. Should you check out extended families Sure… you’re marrying the whole nine yards. Will the same sterling quality or personality trait that makes someone else special occasionally drive you crazy? Sure. Is being the right person more important than finding the right person? Sure.
But if there is one thing that has become clear to me across the years, it is this. Most mature people can, over time, learn to negotiate differences in their interests….even in their lifestyles. But very few, if any, can negotiate difference in their core values. Their what, Bro. Dick? Their core values. So pay close attention to dreamboat’s values.
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