Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “Abraham”

WHY WHACKED OUT STORIES IN THE BIBLE ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE

For those of you who think the Bible is out of date, irrelevant, and boring think again. The Old Testament is chock full of crazy stories, that not only make you scratch your head and say, “Seriously?” but they’re ripe with application for life today.

Check this out…

Many of you have heard this story before, but maybe not in this light. So hold on and read this whole thing…

There was this super old guy named Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham). He was married to this super old chick named Sarai (whose name was later changed to Sarah). Not something we do much of today, but God—who changed their names—can pretty much do what He wants, right?

So these old folks have no kids. And they’re way past childbearing age. Like waaayy past. Abraham is around 85 years old, and Sarah is around 75. Sarah—feeling every bit of her old age—gets a bright idea to give her maid Hagar to Abraham to sleep with so that in some whacked out way they’ll have a family.

Seriously?

Yep.

Believe it or not, this works. Hagar gets pregnant by 85-year-old Abraham. And guess who’s feeling left out of the picture now? You got it…Sarah! Ya’ think? Totally! Dumb on her, but apparently that was normal back then.

Hagar, now prego with Abraham’s baby, begins to look down on Sarah. According to Sarah, Hagar was disrespectful to her and treated her like she was nothing. So get this…Sarah blames Abraham for the whole thing.

Wait, seriously? Wasn’t this debacle Sarah’s idea in the first place?

Yep.

In her frustration and lashing out at Abraham, Sarah says, “May the Lord decide who is right—you or me!” Now she’s bringing God into this mess, hoping He’ll side with her, not Abraham.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. And here’s where I get to the point of my blog. Abraham responds to Sarah by saying, “You decide. Your maid is your business.”

(As a side note, Sarah was probably angry at Abraham, Hagar, and God. She was the one who was barren. She made the choice to take matters in her own hands and create what she thought to be an amicable solution. But when it backfired, her anger probably ran deeply to those three in closest proximity—Abraham, Hagar the maid, and God. They became the targets of her misfortune.)

After Abraham lets God off the hook and tells Sarah to make a decision about the matter, the very next line in the Bible is, “Sarah was abusive to Hagar and Hagar ran away” (Genesis 16:6, MSG).

You see, Sarah didn’t just react or even overreact. No, she chose. She chose how she treated her maid Hagar. She chose to be abusive. She chose to mistreat her, humiliate her, and treat her cruelly. Granted, Hagar got a little uppity with Sarah and didn’t treat her well. So, I guess you could say Hagar deserved it.

But did she?

Sarah chose. Sarah decided. Sarah opted to take her frustration, anger, humiliation, brokenness, failure, feelings of inadequacy, bitterness, and hurt out on Hagar the maid. She became the target. The target that Sarah chose.

Do you get where I’m going? Sarah had the power to choose how she dealt with this situation when Abraham told her to decide. She could have chosen forgiveness. She could have chosen to build a bridge between herself and Hagar and not a wall. She could have chosen to be the better bigger person in the matter. She could have chosen integrity and honor and respect. She could have chosen to reach out and nurture and guide and love. But instead she chose the opposite.

It’s hard when people treat your poorly. It’s hard when life doesn’t seem fair. It’s hard to keep our frustrations in check. But we do have the power. It’s the power of choice. To choose to respond, not to react. It’s the power to choose love over hatred. To choose bridges, not walls. To choose grace over judgment. To choose mercy over malice.

The next time you’re feeling frustrated, angry, or hurt—and you’re looking to retaliate on those you love—why don’t you consider this whacked out story from an old book called the Bible? Because, you see, it actually makes sense.

At the end of the day, when the blame game ends, you have the power of choice. You control how you respond. Will you allow your emotions to override the right thing to do?

In the words of Abraham, “You decide.”

(***Spoiler Alert***) Abraham and Sarah actually do end up having a kid together…when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. If that’s not whacked out, I don’t know what is.

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EVERYBODY IS A “SCRATCH-AND-DENT” MODEL

Several years ago, when we were remodeling one of our bathrooms, we looked all over for new vanity tops. The prices were a little more than what we wanted to spend. In one particular store, however, they had a “scratch-and-dent” section that had various items you could purchase “as-is.” Some items were really broken, others had slight flaws. We ended up buying one of these “as-is” vanity tops that had two tiny, minor chips in it. And you know what? We were totally okay with our “as-is,” scratch-and-dent, slightly flawed purchase.

The “scratch-and-dent” section is where all of us belong, don’t you think? Don’t we all have flaws, and scars, and quirks? Don’t we all screw up and make huge mistakes and have moments of weakness?

Think about it…going clear back to the book of Genesis, people were messed up:

  • Adam and Eve broke the cardinal rule of fruit-eating.
  • Cain killed his brother Adam.
  • Noah got drunk.
  • Abraham lied about his wife being his sister.
  • David committed adultery.
  • Elijah was depressed and wanted to die.
  • Peter chopped a guy’s ear off.

While it’s true that each of us would agree that we are “as is” people, it’s also true that it’s really hard to accept that others are as well. While I may be quite flawed, I expect you to be quite flawless. While I may have many imperfections, I expect other people in my life to be perfect. And when your flaws and weaknesses show—more precisely, when you let me down or make me angry because of them—let the judgment begin.

John Ortberg once said, “One of the great marks of maturity is to accept the fact that everybody comes ‘as-is.’” Everybody is a “scratch-and-dent” model. All of us. Every…last…one. “There’s not one totally good person on earth, not one who is truly pure and sinless” (Ecclesiastes 7:20, MSG).

Knowing this truth helps us understand a couple of things. First, we figure out pretty quickly that I’m not better than you, and you’re not better than me. We’re equally messed up. Second, we understand that because of our sinful selves, we will blow it with each other. We will let each other down. We will make each other angry. And last, but certainly not least, is the truth that though we all come “as is,” God loves us anyway.

I agree with the great country singer Kenny Chesney who sang, we are “a little messed up, but we’re all alright.” And I think he’d agree that we all come “as-is.”

I guess part of me wants to say, “I wear my ‘as-is’ sign proudly.” But the other part of me wants to say, “I don’t want to use my ‘as-is’ sign as an excuse to let you down or make you angry.”

So, here’s the deal…I will work at rising up in my maturity to embrace the “as-is” parts of you, if you’ll work at embracing the “as-is” parts of me. After all, Peter–the guy who cut someone’s ear off on a whim–later wrote, “Most of all, love each other steadily and unselfishly…” (1 Peter 4:8, The VOICE).

Love…
Steadily…
Unselfishly…
That includes all “scratch-and-dent” models…

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