Once upon a time, long before women had volition or will as to who they married, a search commenced for the perfect wife. A servant was sent out – commanded to find a bride, but only from particular tribes, with particular lineage, holding particular pedigree. Perplexed as to how this would ever happen he prayed. “O God of my master, please give me success today. I will stand by this spring as the young women of the town come out to draw water. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’ let her be the one I am to select…”
As the story goes, this is exactly what happened. As she finished speaking the words he had hoped to hear, he adorned her with a gold ring for her nose and two gold bracelets. She took the servant to her family. Negotiations ensued with her father who finally asked her: “Are you willing to go with this man?” She replied, “Yes, I will go.”
The servant began the long journey back to his master with this young woman in tow. One particular evening, after days of traveling, she looked up and said, “Who is that man walking through the fields to meet us?” The servant replied, “It is my master.” She covered her face with her veil as the servant told his master the story of how he had found her. And the text says, “Isaac brought Rebekah into his tent and she became his wife. He loved her deeply…” ~ from Genesis 24
Tell the truth. Even if only for a brief moment, don’t you feel desire stir? The part of you that wishes her story was yours. But if you’re anything like me, that quickly passes, you heave a heavy sigh, and you hear the resigned internal response that says, “Forget it. That only happens in other people’s stories. After all, you’re not the answer to the craziest of prayers. You’re not recognized as the perfect woman. You’re not being adorned with expensive jewelry. And let’s be honest: there are no camels anywhere in sight! What could her story possibly have to do with yours?”
In one swift movement – from desire to cynicism – the in-between is bypassed.
Want some more examples?
- I could step into my strength, my power, my amazing-ness, but no one will be strong enough to handle it. Better to play small.”
“Sure, I could write the book and it would be fabulous, but I’m certain no one will buy it. Why bother?
- Yes, I do have an amazing business idea, but it won’t make enough money to support me. I’d be foolish to even start.
- Of course, I could tell the truth in my marriage/relationship/job, but it will create way too much trouble. I’ll just suck it up – again.
- It’s true, I could clean the house / get my eyebrows waxed / exercise, but I’ll just make a mess / have to wax them again / quit. There’s no point.
Brilliantly, this pattern grants carte blanche permission to hold back, not risk, not do. We stay stuck. We leap to the ending we want, witness it in others, assume it won’t be ours, and then wonder why our story doesn’t go the way we had hoped or planned.
Lest you think I’m preaching here, know with complete certainty that this has been my reality more times than I care to count – or admit. The narrator in my brain tells me incessantly that I want too much, that I am too much, that less would be better, smarter, and far less rife with certain disappointment. I stop before I start. And even worse, I get irritated at the stories around me that I want for my own – like Rebekah’s.
Unless…I look at her in-between.
Here’s what I believe: Far before we were invited into her tale, she had learned, loved, lost, tried, failed, laughed, grieved, and then some. Far before she was discovered, wooed, adorned, and loved she was generous, brave, strong, and courageous. Far before she was chosen by the servant and then by Isaac, she had chosen herself; she knew and believed herself to be worthy of love; worthy, period. How could anything else be true? It was all of this – and so much more – that created the perfect and seemingly coincidental circumstances at the well. Far before that day ever came, she was doing the work, living her life, dwelling in her in-between.
There is no other way.
And this is one of the many reasons why I love her story (and those of so many other ancient, sacred women). She calls me back to what’s most true about stories; most true about mine:
After once-upon-a-time and before happily-ever-after there’s a whole lot of in-between.
When I can see this in Rebekah’s story, I can begin to see it in my own. I can stay put instead of wishing. I can choose hope over resignation. I can do the good, hard, ongoing work of being the protagonist in my own story. The one I’m in this day, not someday. I can be strong and powerful and amazing. I can write the book. I can build the business. I can have the hard conversation(s). And I can maybe even clean the house / wax my eyebrows / exercise (though admittedly, some days, those seem about as probable as watering camels). I can live my in-between.
So can you.
Turn your attention from the outcome and fix your gaze on the in-between. Trust that the day-in, day-out work of living, hoping, choosing, risking, being, makes a difference far beyond what you can imagine; that you are writing a story worth being told.
And for the times in which you’re tempted by cynicism more than compelled by desire, listen to Rebekah. She’ll gladly and graciously remind you of her in-between and yours; of who you are: her daughter, her lineage, her kin.
See how amazing your story is already? Wow!
May it be so (with or without the camels).