In our Scripture today we find ourselves in Abraham and Sarah’s story. Abraham (called Abram at this point) had already received God’s promise to give him an heir and descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:1-6). It was an unbelievable promise to make to a couple quickly exiting traditional childbearing years. In a season of lack, God promised abundance.
One can assume Sarah (called Sarai in our Scripture today) heard about this visit from God and about all the wonderful things to come – starting with a son. It was the desire of her heart to have a son, and a cultural expectation. In a season of barrenness, all Sarai could see was emptiness. The promise was not being fulfilled in her timing, and so she took matters into her own hands.
Shame can do that. Shame tells us to make our own plans, create our own solutions, push our agendas forward, use anyone and anything we can to achieve that goal, and to speed up God’s process. Sarah’s decision led to a solution, but not the one God promised. The outcome of Sarah’s action wasn’t celebration, but divisiveness, jealousy, and anger. Sarai trusted her own plans instead of God’s. Waiting on God, trusting in His timing, and believing in His promises puts control right where it belongs – out of our hands and into God’s.
Barrenness for Abraham and Sarah was literal, but for many of us, there is a dream, desire, or promise from God we have yet to see become a reality. It’s the first thing we think of when we wake up and the last thing on our hearts before we fall asleep. Maybe we’ve told a few close friends about it and now it feels awkward and embarrassing when they ask how things are going. Each time an opportunity comes our way and passes by without us we start to doubt. Or, if you’re like me, we start to plan. How we navigate the waiting is important.
When something I’ve been waiting and hoping and praying for isn’t working out the way I expected, or in the timing I hoped for, I start taking back control a little bit at a time. An email here, a cleverly worded social media post there, a casual mention to a friend about a role they could play and before I know it, it’s my will – not God’s – that I’m pursuing. In seasons when I’ve truly waited on God I’ve been witness to the miraculous when His promises come true at the perfect time or the seemingly impossible happens because, for God, all of it is possible. On the other hand, when I’ve rushed forward in my own timing I have failed, felt disappointed, had unreasonable expectations, and doubted.
We can find hope in Abraham and Sarah’s story today. God used their barrenness as a miraculous starting point in a line of descendants that would one day welcome a baby boy, lying in a manger, who had been born to save the world. A “not yet” from God doesn’t mean never, just that it is not yet His perfect time. Even if we never see the true fulfillment of His promise, we can still shape a legacy of faith, not shame, for generations to come. God is a Promise Keeper, and when we believe that, we can also celebrate and honor Him as our Shame Breaker.
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