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Posts Tagged ‘families’

In this story of Abraham, Abimelech (King of Gerar), and Sarah, her husband called her “sister” to protect their household. But that protection meant being taken by Abimelech and placed in his harem of women. Her safety was exchanged for the many. But not until the end of the story are we told what drove her redemption: barrenness.

Genesis 20:17-18
Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could have children again, for the Lord had closed up every womb in Abimelech’s household because of Abraham’s wife Sarah. [NIV 1984]

God opens and closes wombs. Whether it was back then or now.

I am always intrigued by the real time that takes place within the space of a single sentence in the scripture. In order for Abimelech’s household to know that none of the women could bear children, some time had to pass by. Perhaps their monthly menstruation stopped or women who had been fruitful and continually pregnant, suddenly were not. In any case, it was not a day or a week but more like a year or more that Sarah languished amid the Philistines of that part of the Negev. Which is another reason why the story specifies that the King had not touched Sarah, a surprise, considering how long she had been among them.

In my imagination, when the King’s household discovers their barrenness, they beseech their gods and they beseech their leader to seek healing, to seek an answer, to seek a solution. In this way, it makes sense to me that Abimelech was open to hearing the voice of God in his dream. I believe his seeking was authentic. And when a person seeks from the heart, God answers.

Another interesting side note is that Sarah herself was barren. Did she reveal this fact to the other women? Undoubtedly, since the most important role of women in those days was producing children, and in particular, producing sons. Perhaps they mocked her. That would be my conjecture and yet I could see God responding to Sarah’s lament as well. That they might experience her sorrow of childlessness.

Sometimes, it takes a physical situation to wake us up. When my husband I married thirty years ago, the last thing we expected was to experience barrenness and childlessness. How could that be? We were both believers and committed to our marriage. We were faithful in things of God. And yet, we had no children for eight years. And only then did we seek adoption as a way to build a family.

And yet, despite our confidence that God was in this process, we still had people who asked if we still believed that God would give us our “own” children. Another woman told me I was probably too selfish to have children. Another said it was a curse and we should seek forgiveness for the unspoken sins in our lives. We felt the judgment of well-meaning Christians in our midst.

Our barrenness drove us to God and God’s answer was not pregnancy in the traditional sense. From this experience forward, I have been clear that we, as humans, limit God every day with our interpretation of what God’s “answers” should be or look like. And not only that, but the time it takes for the plan to unfold.

And so, for any women who sorrow over their closed wombs, I offer this one advice: accept what is today and move on so that God can bring forth the next thing. As long as we hold to our way, no other path can be revealed. Every closed womb still holds the Spirit and that is a seed for all generations.

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One thing that Jesus had going that Paul did not: lack of expectations. In these verses, I hear Paul’s own disappointment and frustration. “What more can I do for you?” He’s human. . . just like me.

II Corinthians 6:11-13
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

How many women get frustrated at their children and mates for a lack of appreciation of the sacrifices? Periodically there are rather humorous stories of women going on strike to “wake up” their families. “Look what I’m doing here!!!!” Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Relationships often suffer from these inequalities.

Unfortunately, love has no such guarantees. We can do and love and serve but we cannot limit our doing and loving and serving to the degree of reciprocity. We’ll always be disappointed.

Oh, if I could really get this truth into my heart. If I could stop looking out for evidence of their love for me. It’s not my job to measure. Help me this day to love without fear.

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So let’s talk about families and relationships. What is the expectation? While we are still children , we certainly expect our parents to be safe. We expect our parents to know what is best. We expect them to love us and take care of us. If this expectation is broken, for whatever reason, we are already at a disadvantage as we move into adulthood. If we have lost our ability to trust, we have lost one of the key elements to love.

Love requires an exposure of the heart and the ability to tolerate a bit of heart stomping. But there are limits to what a heart can bear.

Children are extremely resilient. They can forgive “absent,” “bad,” “neglectful,” and even “brutal” parents for a long time, but eventually there is a toll that is extracted from the heart. So often, these broken experiences with a parent are stumbling blocks on the path toward hearlthy adult relationships not to mention a relationship with Christ.

But perhaps the parents are not cruel, but simply broken themselves. The cycle often goes from one generation to another. They may have never experienced unconditional love, trust, encouragement, praise, boundaries, instruction, or anything else that is part of the growing up process. They cannot “miraculously” pass these elements down to their own children. They must learn them themselves first.

There are ways to repair the damage to the heart and to learn new behaviors and attitudes. In the secular world, it is usually through counseling or, if the person is lucky, through an extremely well-grounded, patient, and healthy mate who can model love (but this opportunity is rare since most broken adults are rarely attracted to healthy adults… but gravitate to the familiar).

In the Church, this healing should come through our interactions with Christ and the family of Christ. First of all, we have Christ’s sacrifice [symbolized by the cross] whose blood insures we have access to God Himself … we have access to the holy of holies where there is healing for all. And so, we should be able to appropriate this power, to place the cross between ourselves and others, and to connect heart to heart, soul to soul, spirit to spirit. The past should no longer have such a great influence over us.

Instead, we forget what is available to us. We shield the heart from further hurts. We create our own version of the “holy of holies” and only allow others into the “outer court.”

I’m thinking it’s time to take down the veil between my personal “holy of holies” and the outer court. It’s time to stop requiring all kinds of sacrificial proofs from people I encounter… prove to me that you won’t hurt me, take these litmus tests to prove your worthiness or compatibility quotient to be my friend, be sure you are “like” me before you enter or you’ll be cast aside.

Earlier I said that the heart must be able to tolerate a little stomping. I know this to be true because Jesus himself alluded to it… the forgiving of others seventy times seven for starters.

When I came to the Lord, it was through a young man who initially hid his Christianity from others because he was afraid that people wouldn’t like him. Instead, they didn’t like him anyway because they believed he was “faking” and hiding something. They even thought he was “gay” and encouraged to “come out.” In the end, he did come out… he came out as a Christian. Did it turn things around? Did he suddenly have great numbers of friends? No, not really. But he felt better about himself. And, in the end, because he came out for Jesus, his testimony brought me to the Lord. That was almost 30 years ago.

Friendship, marriages, families, churches … all relationships must be based on truth. There are no guarantees in relationships. When the heart is injured by another, it is only Christ within who can heal, protect and renew. But we should not ask Him to insulate us from pain. The butterfuly that does not struggle to emerge from the cocoon is not strong enough to survive. Life has pain. Relationships have pain. Love has pain. We grow stronger through experience if we choose it.

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