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Posts Tagged ‘Hagar’

Despite the fact the Ishmael means “God hears” or “God listens,” the name has become symbolic for being cast out or cast aside. And, isn’t it fascinating that Abraham, the father/patriarch of nations, was also the father of the Arab nations as well as Israelites? If you think the Adam and Eve story caused havoc in Human, what about this one?

Genesis 16:11-12
The angel of the Lord also said to her [Hagar]: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone  and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility towardall his brothers.”

So here are the traits of a donkey [originally wild ass]: hard working (have been used for work over 5000 years); used as pack animals and able to carry large weight for long distances; associated with the idea of people living at or below subsistence levels [the animal of the poor]; they can live anywhere from 10 years to 50 years, depending on their lifestyle and owners; adaptable; solitary; a male donkey’s [jack] bray can be heard over long distances — as much as 3 kilometers; hear well; fight defensively and persistently; they can interbreed which accounts for mules [bred with a horse]; and above all, stubbornness.

The stubbornness of a donkey is based on self-preservation. If a donkey believes circumstances are dangerous, it will resist. Otherwise, donkeys are also known for being friendly, intelligent, playful, and willing to learn.

So, is this such a terrible comparison, to be called a donkey of a man? It wouldn’t have to be except that the dominance of stubbornness seems to prevail over all of the other things. And stubbornness in anyone is a recipe for disaster. In a way, both Abram and Sarai were also stubborn. For Abram, it was called faithfulness, his conviction that God would follow through on His promises.

For Sarai, her stubbornness came into play by taking circumstances into her own hands. She may have believed God as well, but she appears to have been a practical woman. She waited ten years for her “miracle” child and decided that was long enough. Abram did not exactly try to dissuade her either. Abram, like Adam, passed over any responsibility to his spouse. Even when things went awry and Hagar, elevated from mere handmaid to surrogate, began testing the waters of her authority; Abram cast the solution back on Sarai.

I have always aligned myself with Sarai. I have her tendencies. I have her stubbornness. Once I believe I have the the answer or the solution and the track has been laid, I walk it with a vengeance.

I remember standing at the end of the aisle (at 18) waiting to walk toward my first marriage. In that moment, I knew I was making a terrible mistake. But of course, the path had been laid, and so I walked it. We lasted five years, but in the end, I was too immature to handle it and unfortunately, another dream became my obsession and I pursued that one (to move to New York and acting school) with the same singleness of purpose.

Most of the time, I believe we [Human] err because of our sense of time.

Even today, my husband (of 30 years by the way), bemoaned a familiar truth: “everything I start to do always takes longer than I think it will, whether it’s editing a video or fixing a faucet.” So true. It is “time” itself that we try to manipulate. But “time” will not bend to our will. “Time” is God’s domain and His alone to metamorphose.

Here’s the short of it. I accept my stubbornness and realize there are occasions when that is useful (when it’s called persistence) and instances when it gets in the way. Now I want to know and practice the difference,  to remember that I cannot control the outcomes of every situation: to trust God’s time.

Mary Karr, in her memoir Lit, tells of a fellow AA goofball she asked about “God’s will.” How to know when to act. And his answer is so apropos, we wait and stay the course until God tells us to do something else.

Most of us bemoan not knowing or hearing God’s voice because we act before the time. Simple.

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Sarah? I’m to emulate Sarah, wife of Abraham, a major control freak who convinced her husband to take his servant/concubine [Hagar] to bed in order to “get on” with God’s promise already. Culture prevailed (a norm). And so it was with Peter’s women.

I Peter 3:3a, 4, 6a
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, . . . Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. . . like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.

All right, I’m sorry, but as many of you know, most of the female to male submission passages are hard on my digestion. It’s not that I don’t want to show respect to my husband as a person, I do; I should. I certainly don’t denigrate him to others, and after almost 30 years of marriage, I think we’ve worked out a lot marriage kinks (leaving others for heaven’s explanations).

It’s also lovely to be reminded by Peter that a person’s beauty (male or female, I believe) comes from within. It has to so; otherwise, the aging process would send us all to the looney bin. Love, marriage, friendship: they all have to be rooted and grounded in the “person” who resides inside the body, who is eternally young and vital, who is not of this three dimensional world.

Since the whole idea of marriage or male & female appears to be a non-issue “in” heaven [see both Matthew 22:29-30 & Galatians 3:28], men and women are seen equally by God, doesn’t that truth balance out this very specific teaching of Peter (that same Peter who hedged and refused to eat with gentiles in the face of certain powerful Jews)?

Peter was asked constantly by God to think outside the box (creatively & innovatively). He broke several essential Jewish laws when he entered the home of Cornelius and shared both the gospel of Christ as well as a meal with gentiles. He left his wife and family to follow Jesus for months at a time. He challenged his own belief in miracles, tried walking on water, shared in the multiplication of food, and experienced the transfiguration. Everywhere he turned, Jesus stretched and pulled him away from the norm of the day. And for a long while, he allowed his beloved Master to take him there.

But Peter was also a slave to his culture. He was no different from the other disciples, mostly unidentified, who marveled and wondered at the relationships that Jesus had with women, from the woman at the well to the woman who washed his feet with her tears and hair to Mary of Magdala, one cursed and healed of seven demons.

Both the liberal view and the conservative view of women can be found in scriptures. What do I believe? Which verses will corroborate my presuppositions?

The last time I encountered the bold words of Paul and his passages on submission of wives to their husbands [Ephesians 5:21-32], I accepted their literalness but took a pass on embracing them purely on a male/female basis. Instead, I chose, instead, mutual submission, which I still believe to be more fitting. So, I do the same today.

We could all argue until we are blue in the face about these passages. It’s not worth it. Instead, I’ll opt for that gentle and quiet spirit and may it yield an unfading beauty that transcends human interpretations, mandates, and rules about being a Christian woman and wife. Selah.

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Easy, peasy. Just live by the Spirit and all shall be well. Why? Because the Spirit can crowd out my desire for all the other stuff. The Spirit is big, a consuming fire, a powerhouse, a counselor, a wise and holy One. So what’s the problem? Apparently, the Spirit is also a bit finicky about the conditions of its dwelling place.

Galatians 5:16-17a
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.

Photo by Cherie Stangis

If I were to compare my inner habitat to a house with many rooms, I think, most of the rooms would be considered pig pens while the Spirit is hanging out in one of the closets. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen this closet. I’ve even been in there. It’s immaculate, orderly, clean, and full of light and color. Additionally, it’s not unlike the Tardis from Dr. Who: once I step in there, it’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.

All right, it might not be quite as bad as that. I mean, there have been seasons of my life, when the Spirit had an expanded domicile into some of the other rooms, but I haven’t been very cooperative and a lot of those rooms have gone back to their original condition. You know how it is, the Spirit wants to paint a room yellow and I’m in the mood for red. So what does polite Spirit do? Lets me have a red room with all that goes with it. One difference, the Spirit doesn’t hang in there with me. My choice. My free will. My loss.

Intellectually I understand all of this. If I just let the Spirit re-decorate the whole place, without my interference, it would look and feel so much different. And the more I consider and study, I’m sure a wholly Spirit-run establishment would become a miracle-working address (mountain moving and so forth).

Face it. I still want to be in control (Harumph! As though I have “interior” decorating experience). I’m not that different from the original Sarah (you know the story: “let me show you how to make God’s promise happen with little Hagar here”). [Genesis 16]

Red, green, and black rooms, all stuffed with furniture while windows are covered with heavy blinds, and electronic gizmos sit in every corner. You know, of course, every room has a refrigerator and a pantry too. There’s one room that has nothing in it but disappointments. Another room has chalk boards filled with all the things I’ve said to hurt others. Another room has pictures of people in my past plastered everywhere; I go in there for target practice. But undoubtedly, the biggest room of all is the courtroom. I have my own dais and gavel and when the memories float by, I pound out my judgments. It’s quite crowded and noisy in there.

How do I begin to tackle all of this? Mind boggling. Frightening. HUGE.

Does this sound possible? First, I find my way back to the Spirit Closet and call that “home base” (need to be sure I can get there from anywhere). Then, from there, with the closet light shining out, I will start on the immediate area near the closet. One square foot at a time.

In the organization business, there are only three choices: throw it away, file it, or act on it. Although I know that courtroom is the biggest and hardest room to clean up, I won’t jump in there just yet. I will start smaller and get a little experience behind me, particularly the “throwing away” choice.

If I give over each of these rooms to the Spirit, I know, most of the stuff I’ll find is junk. I’ve been hoarding. I know it. But, confession, I’m pretty sure, when I get to those really messy rooms, I’ll probably need some help. That’s where community comes in. Can I count on you to help?

It’s time for a little Light housekeeping.

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Does it matter–our genealogy? our heritage? our family line? In scripture, it’s recorded in many ways as quite significant, from the “begats” in Matthew to the repetitive list of kings and their fathers and their fathers. Am I a child of the promise, a child of the free woman?

Galatians 4:31
Therefore, brothers [and sisters], we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Paul goes into a longish discussion of the “figurative” nature of Hagar (the slave woman) and Sarah (the free), who bore children, one “naturally” and the other as the result of a God-promise and power of the Spirit (a supernatural birth). The slave child (and subsequent generations) is born to a time and place in history, while the implication is that the child (and following generations) is of a “new Jerusalem,” a place out of time.

Despite the fact that Sarah and Abraham are usually considered the “father and mother” of the Jews (who we know followed the law), now the focus is on the next step when the Abrahamic children come into their true inheritance. The long-awaited Messiah was part of the promise, the miracle of Isaac. Christ too was born supernaturally. (Isaac was born from an old woman’s barren womb and Jesus from a very young woman’s virginal womb.)

And just so, because I have accepted that same long-promised Messiah as my Messiah too, I become a child of the free woman, the metaphysical, the kingdom of God. I now have a different genealogy than I did before. This is a truer meaning of “new creation.”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [II Corinthians 5:17]

I’m not living in this freedom really. It’s positional only, not internalized. It’s head knowledge, not heart knowledge.

It’s like I’m so close to really understanding the enormity of this truth but not quite. It’s a thought butterfly flitting around my head. I can’t quite grab hold of it. But someday I will. And when I do, I will be changed.

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