Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sarai or Elizabeth

So it’s interesting that I actually posted what I did Monday night.  In the moment I didn’t want to believe the truth that I had written about.  Like I said and will continue to say: biblical truth is a lot harder in practice than in theory because it involves our hearts, our scars, our open wounds, our hopes, and our dreams—it messes them all up.

I don’t like patiently waiting, AT ALL.  I’m frustrated with it and with God for asking me to do it.  I’m working through a book that deals with past pain and this week’s subject was betrayal.  The last question of the chapter asked me to write about what I’d like to say to God.  The question really pissed me off.  I answered the question as if God was in the same room, within earshot of me but as though I wasn’t speaking directly to Him (I don’t want us to be on speaking terms right now).  I wanted Him to hear what I had to say but without having to look Him in the face to do so.  Here’s part of what I wrote:

I’m frustrated with [God] because of this process to find healing and wholeness.  I’m frustrated because I know the Bible too damn well to walk away from Him for good—I have the choice to act like Sarai or Elizabeth…

What do I mean by acting like Sarai or Elizabeth?  Well for starters they were both barren and advanced in years far past the age of logically conceiving a child.  They both have very different responses their shared situation.  My last entry referenced Elizabeth’s “patient endurance” with her husband Zacharias alongside her.  She waited on God to answer her prayers while faithfully serving Him.  Sarai (Abraham’s wife before both their names were changed) had a very different response.  She knew God’s promise to her husband, Abram: that he would have a multitude of descendants, that he would be the father of NATIONS.  Instead of waiting for God to show up and act in the ways He said he would, she took matters into her own hands.  She gave her Egyptian servant, Hagar, to Abram as a wife so that he could have a son by her.  Hagar gives birth to a boy, Ishmael, who is described BY GOD as a “wild donkey of a man (insert Pat’s interpreted version: he was a huge ass)” who fights with anyone and everyone.

I understand why Sarai did what she did.  It makes sense doesn’t it? Her husband was supposed to be a father and there she sat, old and barren.  Why not expedite things a bit? It was pretty resourceful and not all that uncommon in the culture of their day. But here’s the truth that comes to light and frustrates the hell out of me: taking God’s plans and promises into our own hands ends up horribly for us.  Sarai ends up resenting Hagar and treating her horribly.  Ishmael becomes the forefather of a multitude of nations as well—and those nations are habitually enemies of Israel (the descendants of Abraham and Sarah’s legitimate son—the means by which God fulfills His promise).

My impatience in waiting for God to fulfilling His promises and the subsequent acts of me trying to do so by my own means has ended horribly for me on every occasion.  It often feels like a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” situation.  Either I’m left lonely and unfulfilled waiting for God’s blessings to come to fruition (and who knows when that will happen?) or I try to do things on my own and end up more battered and bruised than I was to begin with.

As always, there’s hope (I wish there was a way to express mild sarcasm in text).  The fact of the matter is although Sarai screwed things up pretty royally God still delivered on His end of the deal.  She still conceived a son, and through the process of receiving that blessing she literally was given a new identity.  That’s the hope that I’m begrudgingly holding onto: that despite my litany of screw-ups and failures, my infidelity to God, and my lackluster history serving Him, He will still come through and bless me and that by blessing me His way he will restore me into the man He intended me to be from the beginning.

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