Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Following Our Husband's Lead

Okay, I am totally LOVING my New Year's resolution to read the Bible in one year with the help of my blogging community of friends and Larry Crabb's companion book "66 Love Letters." I already feel like God is making His word fresh, exciting and teachable for me. I can't wait to see what else He has in store this year!

Today I wanted to share some thoughts from Genesis 12-15, the story of Abraham (or Abram, as he was called at that time) and Sarai. Usually when I read this story, I focus on Abram and how God spoke to him, blessed him, and used him, despite his weaknesses and failures. But this time, I was more interested in the life of Sarai and tried to put myself in her shoes.

Just imagine this:

You find out, as a married woman, that you are barren, in a culture where child-rearing is the PRIMARY purpose for your life. How would you NOT be bitter and angry at God? What else would you do with your time? Pick up basket weaving or pottery class or some other hobby, like playing competitive Bocci Ball (or whatever the equivalent game would be in their culture). Even these things relegated her to the status of "old maid." Poor Sarai!

THEN, your husband tells you God spoke to him (really??! And who are YOU that God speaks directly to you?) and told him you guys were supposed to leave your homeland (yikes!), your family (double yikes!) and all your possessions (No! I can't live without my weaving loom!) because he was going to be the father of many nations, having descendants as numerous as the grains of sand. Ummm...helllooo...did you forget a MINOR point? How am I supposed to conceive if I'm BARREN?!?!

But you decide to be a good, obedient wife and follow your hubby on a trek across the country, to begin what will be YEARS of wandering, living like nomads. I think I'd have a REALLY hard time not complaining about that one...when are we going to settle down so I can decorate the house, invite the neighbors over for dinner, and really put down roots? Not for many years to come, sweetie, sorry.

Then they get to this new land, where there is a powerful ruling pharaoh. Abram guesses what's coming. He's not stupid. He knows he married a beauty pageant for a wife and once Pharaoh lays eyes on her, he's dead. So he does what any noble, brave, sensible man would do: he lies to save his own hide. "She's my sister," he tells Pharoah. Well, in that case, Pharaoh plays the benevolent ruler and takes her under his wing, adopting her as another one of his wives and lavishing her with the luxuries of palace life. Any other woman would kill for such an honorable position.

Now, if I were Sarai, I would be thinking, "What the heck, Abram?!?! Did you really just hand me off to this guy without even putting up a fight? Did you really just lie to save yourself? What about that whole covenant of marriage thing, promising to be there in good times and bad?" I think I would have some serious trust and betrayal issues with my husband after that one.

But after getting over the shock of being traded in by her own husband, I can't help but think Sarai secretly enjoyed palace life. Who wouldn't?!?! The best comparison I can think of is living at Lake Austin Spa full-time, with staff members waiting on me hand and foot. Schedule for today: heated rock massage at 10am, poolside lunch at noon, yoga and personal training at 2pm, hot tub and sauna at 4pm, formal seated dinner with the pharaoh at 6pm. I think I could handle that. And even though this guy was a total stranger, after being abandoned by my husband, wouldn't I feel the least bit justified in enjoying my new posh palatial lifestyle? Don't I DESERVE this after all I've been through???

But the life and luxury at the palace didn't last long. Bad things started happening to pharaoh and he figured out there must be some kind of curse on him. He confronted Abram and demanded to know the truth. Yes, Sarai was really his wife, not his sister.

So the palatial princess was suddenly banished from the palace and sent packing with her groveling husband, who was still saying that he was supposed to be the father of many nations. But for now, they had to keep moving, keep wandering the land like nomads. At that point, I think I would really struggle with living with this guy. He'd already lost my trust. And now, after enjoying the delicacies and pamperings of the palace, here I was, back to the harsh life of a nomad, living in a tent, eating scorptions and cactus, with no massage or personal training appointments. I would TOTALLY have a bad attitude and be complaining, secretly thinking I DESERVED more.

Well, that's where the reading ends for today.

But you and I know how the story ends. We know that Sarai, who now has little trust in Abram or God, decides to take matters into her own hands and give her maidservant, Haggai, to Abram to get pregnant. Surely that's what God meant when he said Abram would become the father of many nations, right? It made sense to Sarai. Who doesn't want to take control of things when it appears that no one else is in charge?

But God was STILL faithful to Sarai. He didn't say, "Sarai, since you failed to trust me and wait for me to allow you to get pregnant in MY timing, I am no longer going to bless you." Nope. He still allowed her to get pregnant. Despite her impatience, her mistrust and her own sin, God still chose to bless her. She still become the mother of many nations.

What I learn from Sarai in all of this is that, like her, I am tempted to question my husband's decisions and try to take matters into my own hands. I question whether it's really God leading him or just his own fleshly self calling the shots. I know that like myself, he is sinful and makes mistakes. Knowing that, it's hard to submit, hard to allow him to be the leader of our family.

But after reading the story of Sarai and Abram, I realize that God chose to work through Abram and Sarai DESPITE their sin, lack of trust and failures. And my husband isn't trying to give me away to some stranger in order to save his life (although if he WERE to do that, PLEASE choose the manager of Lake Austin Spa, oh yea, baby!!!).

I realize that, even though my husband, like myself, is a fallible, imperfect human being who will make mistakes, who will cause me to question him, to be disappointed, to be angry, sad, annoyed, frustrated, etc...despite all of that, I am learning that I can TRUST GOD to lead me THROUGH my husband. I can trust that GOD will be faithful to his word, even when my husband is not. I can relinquish my need to control outcomes when I don't think my husband is doing it right because ultimately, God's purposes are going to come about whether my husband and I are being "good" or not. Once again, it's not about our goodness at all. It's about God's faithfulness. And He NEVER changes, never lets us down, never fails us, never abandons us. What good news this is!

Let us cling to the ROCK that is higher than ourselves by allowing our husbands to lead us in marriage and in life because we know that our God is FAITHFUL to bring about His purposes despite our own shortcomings.

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