We begin our Unraveling series today with the story of Sarah being told she will have a child even though she has been barren for years and, according to the bible, advanced in age. Sarah carries the pain of infertility and miscarriage into her old age. When an angel appears and says that she is going to have a child, the surprise, disbelief—and perhaps joy—that come with that statement are likely as deep as her hurt had been. Our prayers aren’t always answered in this way, but what we can trust is this—sometimes, even after life seems to fall apart, God can surprise us and unravel our plans with unexpected joy if we are willing to receive it. Our guiding questions that are particular for this week are:
Much happens prior to Sarah’s miraculous pregnancy. God promises to make Abram a great nation (Gen. 12, 15). Sarai abuses Hagar and forces her into surrogacy (Gen. 16). Abraham laughs in disbelief when God tells him he (100 yrs. old) and Sarah (90 yrs. old) will bear a child (Gen. 17). What does it mean for Sarah and Abraham to receive the gift of a child in spite of their prior actions?
Consider Gen. 18:14: “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” Some translations include: marvelous, wonderful, astonishing, impossible. How do these translation variations expand God’s power in this passage?
What might it look like for our disbelief to unravel into joy? Our image for this week comes from Hannah Garrity. Here are her words as she explains the image for us.
The Heir (Sarah laughs) - Inspired by Gen 18:1-15; 21:1-7 By Hannah Garrity Sarah, mother of Isaac, joyfully nurses her newborn son, giving him the nutrients he needs to grow and thrive. Abounding liquid – as a mother, I know what that is like. The feeling of a pouring out; a pouring out of milk, of blood, of tears, of joy; a pouring out of depression, of fear, of baby blues, of awe. In this image, I have expressed the feeling of pouring out. The flow throughout the background relates directly to the pain and joy that Sarah and Hagar have struggled through in their discordant parallel lives. Expressed in shades of milk, blood, and water this image is deeply feminine. The blood that delivers life is the same blood that is shed in sexual abuse. The milk that sustains life is produced by the body whether a child is conceived by choice or by force. A new mother’s emotions run the wide gamut from overwhelming joy, to emotional pain, to previously unmet fear, and to lack of control. They extend from postpartum depression to baby blues. The experience is nothing like anything I have ever felt before or after, a paradigm shift in life. The deep and painful multiplicity of new motherhood is often summed up in perfectly constructed highlight reel photographs on baby announcements. In this painting, I depict Sarah putting up a front of pure joy. It’s honest, but it’s only one small sliver of the real story. As women we stand at once in vulnerability and beauty, in strength and love, in pain and joy. The moments of our lives envision God’s grace in deep complexity. Hannah Garrity