I married Sarai in the land of my father, a place called Ur, before God called us to go. Looking back, it seems odd that we didn’t know where we were going. I do remember the move feeling right, beyond reason or explanation. She felt it too, so we went. Our sense of purpose was clear and it was easy to trust.
My bones are older now and she is gone. Looking over the canvas of my days, I remember divine moments and conversations and I see that God is so faithful in every single thing that He promised. His words to me as a young man are finding their beginning in the earth. I can see in my children the nations they will become. Their children will be generations upon generations held in the very hands of God.
I can still hear His voice to me like it was yesterday.
Your children will be like the stars in the sky.
And it’s happening. I don’t deserve how good God has been to me.
Yet even in the midst of promises being kept, I sometimes wonder about the mistakes I have made. There are so many things I would undo if I could.
When I convinced Sarah to lie about being my wife to the Egyptians, it seemed so necessary. The famine was severe and both of us were very afraid. She was immediately noticed like I knew she would be. Pharaoh treated me extremely well for her sake, like I knew he would. I’ve never been more frustrated for being right.
My decision put her in an impossible situation and wounded her deeply. More than that, it wounded “us” deeply. She still loved me. I still loved her.
But our relationship was never quite the same.
Seasons came and went but the years of trying and remaining childless were the hardest. To watch the joy and growth of children, who are not your own, is bittersweet.
Our hope for a son by itself was a strong one. When coupled with God’s speaking and destiny in our lives it was unbearable. We were failing Him. The dream of starting a nation to bless the earth eventually was something we just didn’t talk about. For years we lived, maintaining our house and wealth and the hope of children faded like a barely remembered dream.
When we were older and the chance for our own children was long past, we came up with a plan to return to the dream that God had for us. Sarah suggested Hagar and it seemed like a way for us to finally have the children we longed for. It seems obvious now, but I could have said, “no.”
I dishonored my wife completely. I was trying to do what I felt was right, what I talked myself into believing God would have me do to carry on our family name and heritage. I was such a fool.
It’s a hard lesson, but if we trust God to do only the things we can do without Him, that isn’t trusting at all. That’s glorifying our own effort and calling it divine.
It wasn’t until God spoke that the weight of our mistake settled on my heart completely. I looked at my hands, now grown old. I looked at my wife’s features and her beautiful gray hair, seeing for the first time what I had missed all of these years.
God wasn’t bringing the promise through me.
He was bringing the promise through us.
His plan was for Sarah to make this journey with me. He changed her name too.
The times I trusted God afterwards, the great moments of faith and the stories that live on, all find their root in the failures I experienced with her. The fear, the lack of trust and the belief that the promise was dependent on us were all revealed in my relationship with Sarah.
He used my mistakes and lack of courage to open my own heart to me. He used those moments to teach me and to lead me closer to Him. But the wounding she experienced wasn’t the only way for God to shape me, it was the path that I chose and I would do that differently if I could.
All of my regrets find a single truth in common: I didn’t love Sarah like I should have.
Focused on what I wanted God to do, I lost so much of the joy that we should have had together. The way I pursued my work and my drive to follow God hurt my marriage. My wife paid a heavy price to walk through life with me.
Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre… the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites.
There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. (The Book of Genesis, 25)
Devotional Thought for the Day
Abraham dishonored his wife Sarah more than once in the pursuit of fulfilling God’s promises to him. These events ultimately reflect a lack of trust in God and weaken the husband / wife relationship. Unfortunately, its all too easy in ministry to dishonor our spouses and fail to see them as partners in the journey of living out our calling. Reflect on how you might be dishonoring your spouse (or close friends if unmarried) during your current season of ministry. What do you need to change to more fully honor God and your spouse.