Dear church,

Have you left room for the working of God in your life? That’s a silly question to ask members of a church. We are the people of God’s promises. Of course we leave room for the working of God in our lives. 

The founding of the nation of Israel came by way of people who knew what it meant to scheme their way into the future. By their own cunning, they looked to take hold of the promises of God and to secure this world for their own. But they left little room for God. 

And at times, God seemed to work at cross-purposes with his chosen people. Moments seemed to come when the way forward seemed clear, and yet God stood firmly in the path. 

For instance, Rachel struggled to become pregnant. Surely Rachel was the chosen one, after all. Jacob had found her by the well and fell madly in love with her. Jacob’s own mother, Rebekah, was found by a well. And so Rachel was found by a well. She was the wife through whom the next generation of Abraham’s family would get its start. This was the way of God – Abram, Isaac, Jacob, and … This was up to Rachel. 

But she struggled to get pregnant. Could it be that God had a different plan in mind? Leah was there. The unwanted older sister already had given birth to four sons. And two servant women were there as well, each giving Jacob sons in quick succession. 

God was doing something new, unbeknownst to everyone involved. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be followed not by a succession of lone patriarchs but by a nation – 12 tribes strong. Rachel thought she knew God’s plan in detail, and God was doing something new. 

Rachel didn’t know God’s plans, and so she reached for the mandrakes. In Rachel’s day, mandrakes were considered an aid to fertility. Reuben was bringing them dutifully to his mother, Leah. Rachel, still barren, thought this was the puzzle piece she was missing. She tried to scheme her way into the future. “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

Rachel had made no room for the hand of God in her life. In her desperation, she negotiated. And like Esau for a bowl of soup, Rachel gave up something precious. Her negotiations only led to another son for Leah, and further muddying of what seemed to be the way of God. 

Do you leave room for the working of God in your life, or do you reach for the mandrakes? Our ancestors in the faith are no different than we are today. We struggle and grasp, seeking solutions for our problems when, in fact, it would be God who “remembered” Rachel and opened her womb. 

Rachel didn’t need the mandrakes. She only needed God. 

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