Sarah

A Marriage Illusion: 50/50

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When I first started to study the life of Sarah I thought she was mindless and weak.  And even though Paul said I could be her daughter if I saw her as a mentor, it was many years before I believed what he was saying; I didn’t want to be her daughter.  I was already a daughter of the feminist movement and preferred the mantra, “I am woman hear me roar.”  But like many other women who’d been raised in that same culture, I found out, albeit the hard way, that I was already powerful and strong.  I was created that way and didn’t need to draw my strength from a movement but from the source:  God.

So began the illumination about the 50/50 split* in marriage and why it’s not God’s view of marriage, but the world’s view.

When I think back I can remember my insides squirming in conflict whenever I came across Sarah, especially this little gem from 1 Peter 3.

It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging his headship over her by] calling him lord (master, leader, authority).

This just didn’t translate into fair and equal for me, which is what I believed marriage was about.  He can run his fifty percent and I’ll run my fifty percent.  Now that’s equality.

I believed the equality moniker licensed me to argue whenever “I” believed “I” was in the right.  In hindsight, God is funny … and patient.  It was like He slipped a little burr called marriage, just under my skin and whenever I pushed up against what I thought was IN-equality between us, I felt the sting of that burr.

I struggled with that burr, all the while blaming Darrell because the only time I felt the sting was when my conflict was with him.  My “prayers” for help seemed to fall on deaf ears.  I would point out (to God) all the things that my husband was doing wrong and how he wouldn’t listen to me.  I wanted to do things my way.  I had ideas and solutions on how to run our family, but there was always so much conflict between us whenever we tried to talk about options or solve problems.  And it just kept getting worse.

Weeks turned into months then into years.  I became more contentious about having the right answers.  More determined to fight for my rights; my way.

… and the burr just kept slicing away.

I had created a war zone in our home and a hardened heart within myself.

WHAT IS THE REAL BURR?

While mentally replaying a recent quarrel in frustration, I complained to God, “Fine, I just won’t have an opinion about anything, is that what YOU want?”

SILENCE.  A deafening silence.

(We all have eye-opening, pride-crushing moments in which God in His infinite grace allows us to wrestle with Him so we see the truth of ourselves.  This was one of mine.)

I had been in our kitchen doing dishes and slamming cupboards and the silence stopped me dead when I realized what I had said through gritted teeth and to Whom I had said it.  I fell onto my knees, not so much in repentance and adoration of God, but in a slump of emotional fatigue and confusion.  “Why did You give me a brain if You didn’t want me to use it?  There will be nothing left of me.”

This was the first time I ever heard God’s voice, I remember it like it was yesterday.  “Yes.  There will be nothing left of you; that is the point.  My Spirit cannot work in Darrell or you, with you in the way.”

With that first glimmer of understanding and the freedom that comes with the death of self, the burr started to loosen.

Focusing on getting our own way and own rights, 50/50, clouds our insight to the change God wants to do in us.  The issue had never been about obeying Darrell because he was right, or me “not using my brain.”  But rather God remaking us into whom He created each of us to be; using the tension now present in every marriage:  Desire.

 BEHOLD the real burr        ->       Desire … TO BE IN CHARGE; TO RULE

Yet your DESIRE and longing will be for your husband, and he will rule [with authority] over you and be responsible for you.

It’s my position that Genesis 3 is not a prescriptive text.  God was not delineating what He was going to do to each of us [Satan, Adam, Eve].  He didn’t put desire in wives, but rather He was describing and explaining what we had each done to our own selves.  He was letting us know how the relationships had changed and how they would play-out, on the outside of Eden.

Remember that He’s the Alpha Omega.  He doesn’t just know the future, He IS the future.  He wasn’t making plans for us, He already knew.  In His grace and love for us, He was giving us a “heads-up.”

Eve’s creation is from power and strength, but not with teshuwqah:  the desire to over power, conquer and rule.  Teshuwqah in wives is a consequence of sin and therefore not our natural or most beneficial state.

The challenge for me was (and still is from time to time) to resist the temptation of teshuwqah that lives in my flesh; that rears it’s head to contend when something seems not fair for me, or ‘right’ in my eyes.

Teshuwqah or submit

The nature of 50/50 calls for someone to be that dividing line between the two 50s making sure it’s all equal.  Whether you call it mutual submission or egalitarian style someone will end up being the scorekeeper to make sure that the submission actually IS mutual or to make sure that no one IS actually leading (or that both are leading … equally).  To ensure the dividing line is equal someone is either given the authority to say, or someone takes the authority and says so.

If Satan can keep you fighting for your rights and contending for your 50% of the 50/50, if he can keep your focus on the mutuality of “taking turns submitting” to the earthy fleshly circumstances of life, you will lean more and more on your own steam and less on God’s.  Satan’s goal is to keep you in the mindset he led you into in the first place:  Teshuwqah

In reality, 50/50 is the gender issue, the “he/she” of it.  I had pitted myself against my husband by choosing my own side of the dividing line.  As much as I said I was for our marriage, the evidence of score keeping proves that my heart was not all in.  Make no mistake, a home divided against itself will not stand. (Mk 3:25)  Here are the two blinding illusions:  First:  You cannot give 50% without withholding 50%, one cancels the other.  You are either 100% for your husband or you are withholding 50% in the name of mutuality or fairness.  It is the nature of equality:  someone tracks the transactions.  Second:  No one knows but you and God.

Well, I was a scorekeeper.  And that’s what I hadn’t liked about Sarah; she wasn’t.

Sarah was 100% for Abraham.  Looking at her through my 50/50 lense she appeared wimpy and unacceptable to me.  Sarah was willing to submit herself.  I was teshuwqah; making sure everything was “equal and fair.” I was the one keeping score … calling the shots from on top of my dividing line.

Then, that day on my kitchen floor …. BOOM, I wasn’t.

Isn’t it always like that with God.  He does the revealing, the healing.  All He asks is that we be willing to honestly look.  Even if it is through squinted eyes at first.  And as I began to view Sarah through His lenses, the low value I placed on her changed to overwhelming pride in being able to say, I am a true daughter of Sarah’s!

Her life exemplified a complete and undivided heart of trust in her LORD.  She demonstrated with her own marriage how opposite mine was.  And finally, a new level of dependence on God emerged that I had never experienced.

I will probably never submit as perfectly as Sarah and that’s ok.  At our house we aim for progress, not perfection.

Robyn

The focus shouldn’t be on a quid-pro-quo relationship, but on the marriage vows.  When we keep score, we automatically see the other person as the problem and absolve ourselves from guilt. –Eileen Silva Kindig

 

* other 50/50 references meaning the same thing, include:  egalitarian, mutual submission

 

SARAH PART 2 – 21st CENTURY WIFE

If you missed Sarah Part 1 you can find it here.

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Peter encourages wives to take a look at Sarah.  While there are many women mentioned in the Bible, it’s only Sarah who’s called out by name and elevated to the position of mentor.  There can be a temptation to focus on her faux pas with Hagar, choose to resist it, in truth we all have areas of weaknesses that trip us up.  Besides, I don’t see that Peter’s intent was for us to focus on her weakness; he is calling attention to her strength as a wife.

God introduces her to us as Sarai the barren, (Gen 11:30) then she’s reintroduced as Sarah the queen. (Gen 17:15)  Peter continues her legacy in the NT by calling her our mother of faith and designates her as someone to emulate. (1 Peter 3:6)

SHE IS A REAL PERSON

In the past, I would read about Sarah and gloss over her because I just didn’t think she had any relevant information to give me.  I mean seriously, we live in two completely different worlds.  This was a mistake on my part; I couldn’t see that Sarah had skin on her (so to speak).  She wasn’t just a character in a book, but a real woman with hopes and fears … just like me.  It was too easy to sit and read her story, from our epicurean world, and conclude that it all worked out for the best; easy-peasy.

How unfair.  This woman was a powerhouse.

Sarah didn’t have the luxury of a Bible to study or verses to memorize in times of doubt nor a mp3 player to scroll down to her favourite worship song to encourage herself.  It wasn’t until I realized that it was just her and God, that I began to appreciate the true strength of her faith.

HER SECRET EXPLODES FOR US

The most awesome knowledge I learned from her, the most startling realization, was that her relationship with Abraham was dual:  Abraham was her husband and also her brother.  Their marriage serves as a powerful analogy for us who are married in the faith!

We know, in heaven there will be no male or female (Gal 3:28) but, in the here and now, we exist in the tension that is found between temporal and Kingdom living.  If we are non-believers our marriage is framed by the temporal.  BUT if we are believers, the marriage has an added dimension:  it is eternal as well.

Abraham articulates this dual relationship as a defence for his shrewdness when he’s speaking to Abimelech,  But indeed she is truly my sister.  She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

I don’t like what Sarah had to walk through, but I do LOVE her courage and trust.  It makes sense that Peter shines a light on her.  She doesn’t panic and frantically look to jump off the crazy train.  Quite the opposite.  Like the stately queen she is, she sits down and buckles herself in.  Expectantly waiting to see what GOD does.

AND FOR US?

In a way, we also live in dual relationships.  Earthly, I am a wife.  Yet spiritually Darrell and I share the same Father, I am also a sister.

Pushing into this powerful analogy from Sarah  I am left with a choice as to which lens I will view my marriage through.

The temporal lens:  Is the short-sighted view that sees only in the present of approximately 100 years.  It sees  in terms of how good can I make it for me now.  How will this affect my life now?  It draws focus to painful circumstances in the marriage that human strength simply cannot bear.  The times of abasing.  It demands that I come to my own rescue, for my own self, with my own ideas and resources instead of waiting for God.

There is no hope for the future.

But with the spiritual lens:  The view sees long into the future.  It is broader.  Stronger.  Higher.  There is room to breathe in hope and trust in God’s complete power over everything instead of my own puny control.  The vision for abounding in marriage can only be made by stepping off the present, into the future, with that higher love.  Love of brother brings God into the picture and with Him comes power, strength and hope.

Love of brother is how Sarah handled Abraham with such gentleness in spite of his request. Instead of viewing him as an adversary because of his human weakness, she chose to be strong in spirit so that it would go well for him.  She knew God would make a way for her where there wasn’t one. (Matt 19:26 & Is 43:19)

CLARITY

  • My husband is my primary brother, all that God asks me to do applies to this brother.  Kingdom living doesn’t exclude a brother because is a husband, I don’t get to pick and choose whom I will or will not serve in the body.  You are a servant of all … or you are not, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all [in importance] and a servant of all.” (Mk 9:35)
  • Far from being a wimpy wife Sarah’s courage elevates the bar of marriage to its proper level, restoring it with honour.
  • Sarah’s action as a wife pushed her marriage far beyond the grasp of any demon.

 

SARAH PART 1 – WARRIOR WIFE

Live with the complete confidence toward God that He will take all things in your marriage and work them together for good.  (Rom 8:28)

Heroines inspire greatness in us, we love them.  Especially ones that are spotlighted in our visible world.  Think: Joan of Arcadia, and Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side.  Even in fiction what woman doesn’t admire Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, in The Help.

But in Sarah, we find a different kind of heroine.

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She possessed all the heroic traits, she was:  Tenacious, Daring, Courageous, and Bold, yet they were funnelled in a different direction.  The problem we have with this heroine is that she’s very counter-cultural.

Sarah calls wives to a subversive fight that is played out on an unseen battlefield; her war is in the spiritual realm.  Her success had effects that not only reached beyond the circumstances she was experiencing in her own marriage but also into the generations of her lineage that would give us our Saviour.  Talk about the butterfly effect.  Where would Abraham have landed if she had responded, No, you do this yourself, I won’t help you.  What about the Nation of Israel; what about US!

I love that the complete conversation between Abraham and Sarah wasn’t recorded … some things between a husband and wife are just too intimate for sharing.  Did she argue or belittle Abraham because of his fear?  I doubt that she did.  I think Abraham knew his wife and he knew he could be vulnerable with her.  Notice he didn’t ORDER her to obey …. He requested it.  How much he must have trusted her to make this request.

Tenacious and Daring

Sarah lived her life towards what God would do.  She was a tenacious hunter of demons.  Abraham asked her to trade her safety and well-being for his own.  This takes a daring woman.  Satan came at her through the weakness in Abraham’s flesh:  his fear.

Courageous

Sarah had no guarantee of what was in her future, all she knew was that her husband was asking for her courage.  And in Sarah’s corner we have …

No church

No 10 commandments

No Bible

No spiritual books

No protection

Just her, God and a story handed down from 20 generations ago.  Talk about a determination of faith!

Boldness

Paul talks about times of abasing and abounding, surely this type of struggle in marriage would be one of abasing.  Satan threw his best shot at her and instead of cowering in a victim mentality or protesting about how sinful Abraham’s fear was, she boldly turned, squared herself against Satan and respond positively to Abraham’s request:  HOOYAH

Isn’t she amazing?  I can’t help but get the feeling that Sarah calls to us from the past saying:

“Look at me.  I am a warrior and am ready!”