Tag Archives: transformation

Authentic :: Sarai

In January I picked a word I want to apply to my life throughout the course of the next year. Sort of like a nerdy version of a resolution, but with a whole lot of prayer and supplication that the Holy Spirit will reveal a focus area for my role in God’s plan. This year the word is transform. 

What a great word, right? Transformation sounds really hardcore and meaningful and like you are going to turn the world upside down and rock it. And yes, there is a lot of that…but transformation also requires a lot of change and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t happen overnight, so patience…yeah. A whole lot of patience. 

You know what else? Transform isn’t something you do on your own. It is something that is done to you. If you know me (or have read my blog at all) you’ll know that I am a control addict. I keep giving it up only to take it back again, so the word transform was super exciting…until I realized that I have ZERO control over it. Seriously, zero. 

Photo by Julie North on Unsplash

Just another lesson in being super sure you are ready for what it is you are praying for, because when you ask God to transform your heart, mind, and spirit. Well, fasten your seat belt because it can be quite an awesome ride. 

I’ve never identified with Sarai more than I have this year, though she’s always been kind of my kindred spirit. Not only did God change her name, he transformed her into His princess. The Princess Diaries showed us that this is no easy task, but the cool thing about God is that he can transform anyone into His princess, even if the task seems impossible. 

Taking Control

Sarai was a daddy’s girl. 

She was a girl who had everything. A loving husband. A great place to live. Wealth (13:1). Beauty (12:11). What she didn’t have? Children. And because she didn’t have children she BELIEVED she didn’t have honor. And then, little by little she felt God taking everything she ever knew…away.

In Genesis 12:1-3 and Genesis 15:1-5 God makes a promise to Abram. He speaks with him, comforts him, and shows him the future. As Abram’s wife (and sister…well, half sister Genesis 20:12), Sarai has a share in this blessing as well. After all, it’s unlikely that Abram will become the father of many nations without a woman. Just saying. 

There’s a catch though, chapter 12 verse tells us that  Abram was 75 when he first received this prophecy, making Sari 65, and even for Biblical era, that is still pretty old to be a father/mother many times over. Frustrated, Abram continually asks God about this promise and God continues to reassure him that there is no mistake. My promises endure forever. Regardless in chapter 15 verse 6 Abram continues to believe despite the years that continue to pass him by. 

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

And that’s where Sarai steps in. She believes in the promise, but there is an awful lot of stress and pressure that accompany this given that Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children (chapter 16: 1). 

In Genesis 16: 1-4 we see that Sarai is practical. At this point, most scholars agree that she is well over seventy years old, past child-bearing age, and most likely people would have viewed her as cursed by God. I wouldn’t be surprised if people have told her that continually. Have you ever seen those memes about the way people ask mothers inappropriate questions? Well, it’s not just mothers! Women who are married without kids always get asked why or what’s wrong, or even worse, don’t you want kids? People are curious, sure, but these careless words bite deep into a woman’s sensitive soul. I’m sure society hasn’t changed that much over a few melinia. People will always think they have a right to know the intimated details of your relationships and family. 

But, in most ancient cultures Sarai’s inability to conceive would have even been grounds for divorce. So, what does she do? What many women would in her situation—she tries to fix it herself. 

Girl, I feel you. This is exactly why we are kindred spirits. I’m a fixer–if there is a problem I have an overwhelming desire to fix it myself. Unfortunately, that subtracts God from the equation and, well, things never end well.

Yet, I note Abram’s response to Sarai’s plans. In many ways this is a throwback to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6). It may have been Eve/Sarai’s idea—but that’s not how God intends for relationships to work in his paradise.

Sarai gets shamed a lot for her actions in Genesis 16:5-6, but I think we need to look at Hagar too. There’s a lot of female rivalry going on here.

If Hagar begins to despise her mistress after she finds out she is pregnant, then there is a clearly a power struggle in this house. Hagar’s pregnancy “proves” that the barrenness is Sarai’s “fault”, right? Well, sure that would be right if we believe we are at “fault” for God’s perfect timing…yikes. 

So, Hagar’s ego is fed, and she might even be walking around with her nose up in the air because she believes she is the one who must be intended for the promises God made to Abram…yikes. 

On the flip side, Sarai does not handle the situation well; she created an unhealthy home by complicating her relationships, but she could have made so many different decisions and the outcome would have shifted in a completely different direction. Let’s not even consider the first mistake, but after Hagar “despises” her, she could accept the responsibility and welcome Hagar into the family…but that’s complicated too. So all around it’s just a hot mess. 

And let’s not forget that Abram is not blameless in this either. As the patriarch, he should be the one making the decisions, especially since he is in such close communion with God. I don’t recall him pausing to ask for God’s guidance as Sarai shoves Hagar into his arms. And I certainly don’t see him stepping up and taking responsibility for the chaos in his home. In fact, he washes his hands of the matter, figuratively turning back to the football game and letting the women figure out who the primary cook in the kitchen is. 

And so, Sarai does what makes sense. She strikes back at Hagar with such harshness that her maidservant runs away…we could follow Hagar’s story, but that’s for another post. Hagar eventually returns and bears a son to Abram when he is 86 years old–over a decade after the promise is first made. 

Letting God be GOD

And then another decade goes by, and when Abram is 99-100 years old, God gives him a new name–but more importantly God outbreathes his spirit into Abram and creates Abraham…in other words, God transforms him. It took 20 years, but God fulfilled the promise in his own timing. True transformations don’t happen overnight, and I think we see that Abram was not ready for God’s promise, but Abraham is.

And so is Sarai. In Genesis 17:15-17Sarai is reborn as Sarah.

This is not done lightly! Reborn, Sarah is now ready for the promises God made. Even more importantly, Abraham is ready to see Sarah as the vessel for God’s promise and not the problem. Though she is still skeptical and cynical, God has prepared her in His timing for the next step. The motif of laughter here is evident. Abraham laughs, exhausted. Sarah laughs, mocking. They both laugh in joy and disbelief. God really does fulfill his promises. Just when you are ready to give up, He shows up.

Just when you are ready to give up, He shows up.

Photo by Ye Fung Tchen on Unsplash

Waiting on God’s Timing

Sarai had a hard time waiting on God’s timing. I can relate to that on a deeply spiritual level. When it seems like I should be able to fix it, I don’t always understand why God wants me to wait on Him, but let’s be honest. I’m not God, so there is definitely always a reason for waiting on his timing. One of my favorite verses in seasons of waiting is:

For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3 

Waiting is hard. But the end result is always worth it, and looking back, like Sarah, we often laugh to see just how much God transformed us before we were ready to walk straight into his promise. 

Wilderness Reminders

Wilderness reminders: My Journey through Psalms 105-107

When the Israelites wandered through the desert, they became well known for one thing: grumbling. They had no food. Grumble. They had no water. Grumble. They didn’t like the food. Grumble. They were tired. Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. Despite the fact that God constantly reminded them of his provision (by miraculously providing for them multiple times–daily really), their default was clear: grumble. grumble. grumble.

Earlier in my faith, when I would read these passages I would judge them pretty harshly. How could they continue to whine and complain when bread was literally falling out of the sky and they were following a pillar of fire? God’s glory really doesn’t get any clearer than that. It’s in front of your face!

The older, and dare I say, wiser I become I realize more and more how arrogant that is. Because I do the same thing every day. Instead of remembering His grace and goodness, I tend to focus on what he hasn’t done for me, rather than what He provides for me.

As Psalm 106 states before going into the history reminders: “Honor His holy name with Hallelujahs, you who seek God. Live a happy life!” That last comment in verse 3 is really a command: honor him, seek him, and live happy. Remember his promises and focus on the blessings, what he has done for you. That is the secret of a happy life.

Why? “Because he’s good, because his love lasts,” Psalm 107:1 answers. And reassures in verse 3 that “You’re one happy man when you do what’s right, one happy woman when you form the habit of justice.”

I may not walk through a literal wilderness, but these wildernesses still exist in my life–in everyone’s life. Because let’s be real, life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Life is hard. Life is unfair, or at least it feels that way. And life can be lonely. Really lonely when you are isolated in the wilderness and it looks like everyone else around you is enjoying favor in the land of milk and honey.

I know I’ve written about this on the blog before, but it’s life and it’s where I am right now. I am in a wilderness of singleness. And it’s hard. And heartbreaking. And lonely.

Sometimes.

Usually, it’s all those things when I focus on what I lack. What I want. What God HASN’T given me. Like the Israelites grumbling about not having the promised land, or food right when they want it, I grumble about what I think my life should be instead of turning inward to focus on what life IS right now. What he has blessed me with. And why.

But “Oh thank God–He’s so good! His love never runs out. All of ou set free by God, tell the world! Tell how he freed you from opression…” Psalm 107 is quick to remind us just how much God HAS done for us. And, quite frankly, how beautiful his provision is.

And as I work toward transformation I see it. I see the blessings day in and day out. I focus more on them and less on my selfish desire to want what I want when I want it!

Because “if you are really wise, you’ll think this over–it’s time you appreciated God’s deep love” (Psalm 107:43). In the wilderness or in the land of milk and honey…

God. Never. Changes.

Transformation

Transformation: My Journey through Psalms 104

I haven’t done New Year’s resolutions in a long time, because frankly by Easter everything is pretty much challenged by life and shouldn’t we be constantly on the lookout for reformation? So I choose resolutions when I need reformation, not just on one arbitrary day of the year.

What I do enjoy doing each year is picking a word to focus my year around. This year, after a lot of prayers, I choose transformation. And wow. Let me advise you if you do this and you seriously make it a regular prayer to be ready for whatever word you are praying for to really penetrate your life.

I’m not the easiest going person in the world. I like a set schedule. I like routine. I hate surprises. Can I adapt? Sure, or I wouldn’t be a successful teacher, but it really stresses me out when I have to create and change on the fly.

I’m also not the bubbliest person in the world. Happy is not my default. In fact, I have been compared to that Sadness character in Inside Out by more than one person. That, I think is a little extreme, but I get it. I’m a pragmatic realist so I really don’t bounce around looking for things to jump for joy about.

2017 was a really rough year for me–and ended in a really rough way. So when 2018 rolled around I wanted real change. I wanted transformation. 

Did you know that transformation is radical? And usually requires some kind of alteration or catalyst. Something new must be added in order to alter the composition or original structure. In case you are wondering, chemically speaking, a break down has to happen–at the cellular level–for transformation to occur.

Yikes.

See where I am going with this?

I’m actually kind of impressed with what God is doing with this in my life. I think he led me to this word because I could have chosen one of two things to do with the year 2017. 

I could have wallowed in the sadness, or I could do what Sadness is supposed to do–allow it to move through you so you can actually understand, appreciate and experience real joy. And that is true transformation.

So what does that have to do with Psalm 104?

If You, God, can be dressed up in sunshine… have built your palace on the ocean deeps and made a chariot out of clouds…commandeered winds as messengers and appointed fire and flame as ambassadors…roared and the water ran away…set boundaries between earth and sea…make grass grow…bring grain from the land and wine to make people happy

Then how could we ever doubt his ability to transform us each and every day?