We take notes, leave notes or send notes of things that are important to remember. There’s an entire industry devoted to helping people remember. Post It © notes have likely saved thousands of us from disaster when reminding us of important things. We have our own version of Post It © notes here in Africa: we cut up scrap paper into Post It © note size and write reminders on them. Regrettably, these notes, because they have no sticky back, are liable to blow away when we turn on the fan.
There’s no way I won’t turn on the fan in the heat of Bujumbura.
To deal with the blow-away effect, we use the nearly-worthless 50 franc coins to weigh down our makeshift Post It © notes.
The Price Tag
I remember when I’ve struggled with feeling forgotten. Like one of our Post It © notes that blew away with the fan, I’ve been tempted to feel left out or neglected in the grand scheme of things. I’ve been guilty of the sin of comparison. I’ve compared who I am and what I do with others. When others have done well after what appears to me to be a short time, I’ve berated myself for being substandard.
The problem with my comparing is that my journey is my own. The success that others are experiencing on their journeys have come at the price they have had to pay. I’m not privy to their price tag. How do I really know what they have endured before experiencing success?
Beautiful and Barren
If there’s anyone’s life that I have studied that had the right to feel sidelined or forgotten, it would be Sarah, Abraham’s wife. She first appears in Genesis 17. Not much said about Sarah except that she was beautiful and she was barren. In the time of Abraham and Sarah, if a woman didn’t bear children, it was considered to be a great shame.
I understand this to some extent as here in Africa, women who are barren face a strong social stigma. I know of women whose husbands have been told to leave them when they’ve failed to bear children. Their pain is intense and their pain is real.
They are sidelined.
Not Once, But Twice
Sarah was forced to bear her shame alone. Her husband Abraham had been chosen by God to do the impossible. From him, a man of advanced years with a barren wife, God had promised to raise up a great nation of people. How could this be?
Along their journey, Sarah came up with a plan to have children through her servant Hagar. This resulted in a son, but not a son that Sarah could love. She likely had mixed feelings about the arrangement, even though it was one commonly practiced at that time. Abraham produced a child with another woman at her bidding. What a complicated web she wove.
Her husband pawned her off not once, but twice, in order to save himself (see Genesis 12 and 20). Abraham feared first the King of Egypt and then King Abimelech. He used his wife’s beauty to distract them from killing him. He offered her to them, in essence allowing them to have her even physically in order to save himself. She wasn’t worth much as a wife anyway, in her barren state.
God takes the imperfect and brings His amazing plans to light. He does this so we can all know it doesn’t matter who we are or what we have done, God can use us.
He used unbelieving Abraham to teach us faith.
He used unbelieving Sarah to help us trust.
Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised.Genesis 21:1
After years of failure and fear, God visited Sarah. Isaac was born to a woman with no chance of conceiving. God saw her, took note of her and did as He promised.
But what if Sarah had given up? What if she had run away when Abraham tried to pawn her off or when Ishmael was born?
Just because you’ve not seen your miracle doesn’t mean that God won’t take note.
Wanting to Quit
Because I don’t really fit anywhere, for reference please see my the page “Musings of a Misfit Missionary,” I have wanted to quit. In fact, there have been times I’ve quit only to find myself regretting quitting.
What if I had kept going?
Sadly, I’ll never know the answer to that question because I gave up.
What Could Have Been
I am the classic over achiever. When Jamie and I first married, I was going to school to be a nurse. I was taking 19 hours of classes. The stress of such a heavy school schedule with being newly-married and becoming a preacher’s wife was intense. I found it all to be overwhelming and just a few weeks before I was to take exams for the semester, I quit.
To this day, I understand why I quit. I sympathize with my younger self and want to pat myself on the back and say, “I get it girl, I get it.” But I still wonder. I’ll never know what “could have been” had I not quit.
Thankfully, like He did with Sarah, God has redeemed those lost years and I did complete my education in a field I love (education and social work). It took time and it took determination but it happened. Now, years later with some experience under my belt, I can honestly say that God is never out of time.
Listen To Her
whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.Genesis 21:12b
I love the fact that when God took note of Sarah, He not only honored her in front of society by giving her a child, but He also honored her in front of Abraham. At a time when women were held in low esteem, God said to Abraham, “whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her.” He took her from being voiceless to becoming, in effect, God’s mouthpiece in his life.
Indeed, her redemption was complete. It only happened because she didn’t give up.
If you go on to read about Sarah, it seems that her marriage to Abraham changed in their latter years for when she died, the Bible says that “he mourned her greatly.” (See Genesis 23). She finished her race with love, she finished her race with honor.
What an end!
You, too, can finish well as long as you don’t dare give up.