Monday, October 28, 2013

Sarah Laughed

And Sarah Laughed, by Abel Pann
My husband reminded me that I left the story hanging with my last post. "Aren't you going to write a followup post?" he asked. It was a momentous week, after all--surprising, humbling, a turning point. As I predicted, by the time I clicked Publish on my last post, I had found my equilibrium. The sun began to shine again, and peace returned. But it was only intermission. The story had yet to play itself out.

Do you remember the Old Testament account of Sarah and Abraham? Like most good Hebrew women, Sarah desired to raise children. To add strength to that perfectly righteous desire, God had promised Abraham that his posterity would be as the sands of the sea. And yet, not only did Sarah fail to conceive, but she had to watch her handmaid, Hagar, deliver Abraham's child in her place. For decades Sarah suffered the disappointment and shame of her childless condition, until at last she reached menopause. And then, one day she stood in the tent door listening while a holy man told Abraham, "Sarah thy wife shall have a son." What did Sarah do? She laughed to herself. The holy man promised the impossible; it was past time.

A couple of days before my recent fit of melancholy, I sat in the temple listening for the inspiration and answers that generally come to me there. The thought that tiptoed through my mind was a vision of Sarah and the gift of Isaac, a gift that came to her only after she had given up hope. Like Sarah, I had for decades desired a particular blessing. It was a perfectly righteous desire and, like Sarah, I had mostly given up hope of receiving that blessing. Mostly, but not quite. Recent events had rekindled just a spark of my hope, and the reminder of Sarah fanned the flame.

Sadly, the evening brought a resounding "no," seemingly straight from Heaven, and the loss of a newly revived hope sent me spiraling downward. My heart cracked just enough to let the faith drain out and the melancholy rush in to take its place. My husband flew to Utah on a trip that now seemed pointless, while I wallowed back at home. But sunshine and exercise, friends and the memory of faith lifted me. I still doubted my own ability to recognize inspiration, but I decided I could live without the desired blessing. After all, I had lived without it for years already.

In the midst of the calm, the phone rang. Astonishingly, the resounding "no" had turned to a "yes." Only after it was impossible did the blessing arrive. The next day, some of the people I love best of all stood together in one of the places I love best. Back home, I smiled. God remembered Sarah, even though she laughed, just as God remembered Rachel and millions of other covenant women. And God remembered me. It feels good to be remembered. I'm humbled that I dared to think my Father would forget me.

It occurs to me that I have not, in fact, really told the rest of the story. After all, most of the telling belongs to other actors in the scene. Truth be told, I suspect that in the end this episode will prove to be just a small part of a tale that continues to unfold. But it is enough to remind me that my notions of possibility can hardly hem in the God of the Universe.

1 comment:

  1. Juliana, I deeply miss teaching seminary with you. I love you. Your soul touches mine.