Today we dive into Those Who Wait: Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay by Tanya Marlow and discuss Sarah.
If you haven’t gotten the book, it’s not too late! And it’s a perfect Advent book, as you can read one little short section a day. Tanya takes a passage of scripture and combines it with research to write in a first person narrative.
Our reading today begins with Sarai and Abram in Haran. Abram has received his well-known call to leave his country and to be used to bless the world by becoming a great nation through whom God would work. If you are like me, you are familiar with Sarai and Abram’s story. But if you’re also like me, you get a bit lost in how much time passes because the text in the Bible appears so closely together.
So, lovable geek that I am, found a map, printed it off, labeled it with the passages from Those Who Wait, and oriented us a tiny bit in space and time. The video you see below (if on the web) or here (in email) is only two minutes.
Before we jump too much into the content, can I just say I haven’t read a first person narrative like this. I understand that reading is, in part, about personal preferences, so I do not want to step on anyone’s toes. But I have read very little Biblical fiction because it often is not my cup-of-tea. Written a bit too lovey-dovey or cheesy feeling for what I like. However, when I read about the account from Sarai/Sarah’s perspective, I didn’t squirm. Instead I was transported—a sign of good writing.
I also enjoyed reading the research and learning more of the culture and context.
Combining the passage we read and the map above, for the first time I thought of Sarah as a cross-cultural woman. Esther, sure. Daniel, Jospeh, Moses, Ruth, Naomi, yup, the cross-cultural aspects of their lives and calling were clear. Seeing the map and doing the math, I had even more compassion for Sarah.
In “Sarah: The Call” I appreciated seeing Abraham and Sarah as real people who talked to each other. Her husband was called and she was promised what her heart longed for: a baby. “I was thirsty for blessing, my spirit longing to know the Creator more. But I wanted to be sure I could hope for a future for us before we ripped away from our past. Abram kept silent, and I wondered if God was silent on this question, too.”
Day two was called “The fear” and began, “This is not how the story was supposed to go. This much I knew. We had left everything, back in Harran for the promise of amazing land and millions of children, but it had turned into an everlasting journey.”
Anyone else relate? It’s not where I am now, but I have been on journeys that started off laced with promise and then headed in a different direction than I thought. The section called “The Fear” highlighted how much what happens to our bodies—hunger, illness, exhaustion—deeply influence us. And they should! God has embedded us in bodies and expresses over and over in scripture how much he loves the material.
“That horrible, horrible night when I had sobbed in desperation—the Lord had heard me. Perhaps it really was possible that the Lord hears us when no one else does . . . that’s what I thought during the whole journey back: the Lord heard me. The Lord has honored me when my husband had not . . . in that moment, though everyone else had let me down, I knew I mattered to the Almighty.”
On Day 3, Sarah talks about getting her new name. I have now taught the Bible study for this section twice—in my small group and in a Sunday School class. If you looked over it, you know the Bible study goes with Day 4, when Abraham and Sarah were visited by the three men (Genesis 18:1-15). What stood out to me as I discussed this passage in two contexts that though Abraham was the one addressed (i.e. “Why did Sarah laugh?”) it was Sarah’s name used over and over. Not “Abraham, why did your wife laugh?”
Also, who was going to have a son?
Sarah was named as the parent, not Abraham.
I’m awkwardly circling back to Day 3 and “The Longing” where, in part, God gives both Sarah and Abraham a new name. Both of them. Not just Abraham.
Repeatedly in the scripture, Sarah is seen and named.
But twenty-four years is a long time to wait. I can understand why she might have begun to wonder if they had heard God wrong or if God was not as trustworthy as she thought.
Pause for a moment and think about your life in December 1993. In the comments I’d be curious to hear a snap shot of your life 24 years ago. Some of you were children! Some of you had babies who now are ADULTS. Some of us were junior high math teachers with spiral perms and shoulder pads sewed into our work-wear. But for all, we could not have guessed all the past twenty -four years have held.
I loved (on my page 51) the benediction for the Sarahs “choked by cynicism” and the separate one for the Abrahams “who have been hoping long.” Some of us will be more like Sarah in temperament and others like Abraham. Both are valued and included in scripture. Both are seen by God. And in the end, both want the Joy of the Lord.
What would you like to discuss about Sarah, the writing style, or the research? Let’s talk in the comments. And bonus points if you share a picture of yourself in 1993. I’ll try and find one to share!
See you in the comments,
P.S. Next week we will read about “Isaiah: Dealing with Delay, Waiting for Justice and Peace.”
[totaldonations-progress-bar id=”19498″ button=”yes” button_text=”Give Now to the Not Alone Campaign”]