Sometimes we just need to take a look at someone else’s circumstances to realize that ours isn’t so bad. Sarah is the person that I think about when I feel bad about my parenting skills or when I feel like my situation has gotten a little complicated. Sarah was married to Abraham, of Father Abraham fame. Some people refer to him as the Father of the faith. He’s a pretty major deal. Since we know that behind every great man is an even greater woman, we can conclude that she’s a pretty major deal as well. She was gorgeous. Men were chasing this woman well into her 80’s. Sarah was beautiful but she was also barren, which was a real bummer back in biblical days. God had promised Abraham a son, but ninety years had passed and she still wasn’t pregnant.
It’s not that Sarah didn’t believe God’s promise for a son, she just wanted to help a little bit. You know how we mothers can be, right? So what does Sarah do? She doesn’t get an ovulation calculator, or basal thermometer to check her fertile days, she tells her husband to go ahead and make a baby with her servant-girl, Hagar. He happily obliges and the end result is a baby boy named Ishmael. His cuteness wears off quickly and Sarah banishes both Hagar and Ishmael to the desert to die. Thankfully, God saves both of them and Sarah eventually has her own child at the ripe old age of 90.
“Wow!” is all I can say about this woman. There are so many layers to this story. Where do I even start? She wouldn’t have gotten into this dilemma if she didn’t give her husband to another woman! That was her first mistake. Second, children are never to blame for our mistakes. Poor Ishmael took the brunt of his parents bad choices.
As bizarre as the story is, we actually have a lot to thank Sarah for. I thank her for making me feel better about my step-parenting skills. Even though Mila has brought me to the brink on a few occasions (and vice versa), I can honestly say I’ve never once thought of doing what Sarah did to Ishmael! We live in the desert so I know how unbearable it can be when the temperature reaches the triple digits. I’ve gotten frustrated with my kids before, but never to the point of wanting to melt them in the sun. We also need to express gratitude for the way she effectively created such a complicated situation between her, Abraham and Hagar that all other families seem much less dysfunctional.
Although I wouldn’t go to the lengths she did, Sarah reminds me of myself in some ways. It’s hard for stepmothers to leave things well enough alone. We are always trying to fix things and help things along. She doubted God, laughed at the prospect of having a baby in her old age, and then tried to undo the problems she created by making them disappear. We might judge her for her bad choices, but God actually commends her in Hebrews 11:11 as a woman of great faith. This tells me that God’s grace is so much bigger than all the mistakes I’ve made in my stepfamily. Sometimes that’s all I need to hear.