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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A "but then" Moment

I wish I had a heart that is more discerning, knowing when it is ok to let my mind wander free and when it is best that I stay alert...but I am, in the very same breath, so thankful for His provision that keeps a watchful eye out for me when He most wants my focus...

Yesterday, I longed for a hot bath and a simple escape from the long weekend, now ended with the return of school.  But as my eyes searched for the perfect book to escape into...none was found as there was nothing left unread.  So...with somewhat of a horrible attitude...I grabbed my Bible and headed to the relaxation of the hot water. 

What's so funny to me is my own idiotic belief that God can actually fail to use His own Word to capture my heart like any other author...like any other book...but better. 

Yes, I am a dork....and, quite honestly, I would pray that He would remove the forgetfulness from my heart, but I can't help but love the giddy, childish joy that rolls into my heart as I find Him once again...faithful.

The curtain on this story rises and we find Abraham celebrating Isaac's weaning with a great party.  All his family and friends are invitied to come and marvel at the child of promise.  The celebration lasts all day and as the party rages, so does the boiling heat of selfish control.

Abraham's beautiful wife, Sarah, bore sweet Isaac, a promise from the Lord Himself...and now she stands, glaring at the child she took part in creating many years before.  Ishmael, the son of her own servant Hagar, is making fun of his little half-brother and Sarah's mind can't stand the sight of it any longer.  Marching up to her husband, she loudly demands that he rid the family of not only the boy who is not Isaac, but his mother as well.

Abraham hears the demands of his wife with a heart torn as his eyes move from Sarah back to Ishmael's face.  He knew he wasn't the promised son of God, and yet he was HIS son...the child of his own loins.  Hagar was not the love of his heart that Sarah was and yet...she was the mother of his firstborn and carried a piece of his heart. 

Did he glance back at his wife, his mind swirling with the desire to ask her if she had lost the memory of how this "unwanted" child came to be in the first place?  Did he have to bite back the urge to lash out at this woman who was dismissing the same servant that she had, just years earlier, forced into his tent in order to "help" God out with the promise of a generation that would come from his seed while she was barren?  Did his tears burn down his cheeks as he swallowed all the pain that threatened to break him in half?  As much as he loved Sarah...did he, in that moment, despise her, even a little?

Taking the wise approach of saying nothing in immediate response to her demands, Abraham lifts his heartbreak up to God.  I can only imagine his body shuddering with the answer as it floated down into his heart:   "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant.  Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.  I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.

And so, early the next morning, he loads his son's mother with rations of water and food and prepares to send them away into the desert that surrounded them.  Did they speak?  Were there tears?  Did Hagar hate him then, seeing him as seemingly weak, not standing against the hurtful and hate-filled treatment by the woman who was the cause of this situation?  Did Abraham whisper over and over "I'm so sorry..." and did Hagar's heart harden against him?  Did Ishmael call out to his father, confused, as was pulled away by his mother who now faced her future with sure feet and enough pain to speed her hurry away from the only home her son has ever known? Did Abraham turned his back on their departure, too ashamed to watch them disappear into the sunrise...too broken to accept what has just happened?  And did he know, in that moment, that he would never again see his son?

Flash forward to Hagar and her son, lost in a desert that rages with heat during the day and saps them of all energy as their water supply dwindles away.  As she offers the last drop of the liquid to her only child, she looks into his eyes, watching the life fade with each ragged breath in his chest.  She knows she has nothing left to offer him as she simply has nothing left.  The food is gone, the water drained...and the desert that surrounds them offers nothing but scorching temperatures that break them down even further, leaving her emotionally unable to handle the truth that is their fate.

My heart cracks as we are painted the picture of a woman who is so utterly broken that she puts her own child under a thorny bush, her tears surely spilling down her cheeks onto his dusty, pale skin...placing him in the security of a shelter which will hopefully preserve his body from the hungry animals that won't wait until his hearts stops beating before they swoop in. 

I can't help but cry with her as she walks away, knowing with full assurance that she will never see him again.  His laughter and his love, left to pass away under the only shade she can find as she moves a bowshot away from him.  Did she sit...or did she fall as the sorrow shoots directly into her heart?  The anger and the betrayal now at a climaxed war in her heart and mind as the only one she has ever truly loved lays, dying, under a bush behind her...did she scream?  Did she wail?  Did she fall face first into the dust as she pleaded with a God she hasn't known personally "Please, I cannot watch the boy die..."  I can't imagine her pain...her frustration at the helplessness forced upon her by, in her eyes, a woman too prideful to admit her wrongs and a man too weak to defend them. 

...but then...

Oh! Every great story has the "but then" moment...and every person who loves to read knows exactly what I mean.  It is the moment when all of creation pauses as the hero rights the wrong...defends the broken...swooping in at just the last moment in which our lead character's heart can still be saved.  When written correctly, this moment stops the reader's heart from beating...draws tears from a deep well from within, causing a broken smile to spread as true love, once again, conquers all.

Hagar's story is no different.

Here, in the scorching sand...her heart broken and her life ebbing away with each pulse of the sun's rays...her only possession left for dead behind her.  Here, in the dry desert, her True Love shows Himself.  "And God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, 'What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.  Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.' "

There, in the middle of a desert, God Himself saw...

There, in the midst of the greatest heartbreak of her life, God Himself remembered...

There, in the face of sure death to a small and weak body, God Himself acted...

And there, in front of her eyes, God brought to her a well filled with water.

Did she stare, disbelieving for a moment...or did she drop to her knees and cry?  Did she trip on her way to the cool liquid as the reality numbed her mind?  Did she slide into Ishmael's body as she dropped to her knees, mid-stride, in a desire to pour the water into his cracked lips before his heart stopped? 

Was she laughing?


Rocking back and forth, for lack of understanding at the miracle laid out in front of her...for her and for her son? 

Did she praise? 

Did she sing? 

Or was she, as I was after the curtain fell on this drama of a mere thirteen verses in the 21st chapter of Genesis...speechless?

You see...

It is Abraham's story.

It is Hagar's story.

It is Ishmael's story.

But it is also mine because, as Hagar, I have been "sent away" from a place when I didn't understand or feel defended. 

I have taken my heart with me as I walked away, fueled by anger...hurt...frustration...as "he" seemingly turned away.

I have wandered in the desert of "I Just Don't Get It Because I Only Did What I Knew Was Right At The Time" and have watched my resources fade away, leaving me hungry and thirsty, without direction.

I have placed my heart down in the shade, ready to let its hopes for the future die as I walked away to weep, unable to stand the gut wrenching pain of letting it go.

I have dropped to the ground and pleaded...humbly and honestly...with the Lord of the Universe, begging for His swift taking of all that I had hoped for in the effort to just let it be done.

And then...
...I had my desert "but then" moment, when His voice echoed out...bouncing off the rocks and sand and shooting directly into my heart.  I have heard the Almighty ask me what is wrong, knowing already that He knew...and I have cried, knowing then that I was seen...remembered...and defended as His life-giving water has been poured into the heart of my dreams and hopes, restored.

This morning, I took my Bible into the tub with a bad attitude...this afternoon, I faced my Lord with a heart full of peace, redemption and strength for the first time since I "left" oh so long ago with my heart in my hand.

You know...I would pray that He would remove the forgetfulness from my heart, but I can't help but love the giddy, childish joy that rolls into my heart as I find Him once again...faithful.

Looking up as always...


alicia said...

wow. My dear friend, you have me on the edge of my seat, heart pounding, weeping, and you 'but then' moment, did the same as you described for me.
I love you so much, I can't wait to hear more of your "but then" moment!
You are talented beyond belief and I am so glad you are back!

Diane said...

Ahhhh. I love how you made the story come alive, the details and the emotion you put behind the words. Awesome! :O)

Jennifer said...

This is awesome--this is the God-inspired Bina I started following a few months ago. :-)

Karen said...

Passionate, insightful and honest. Powerful post, Bina. Thank you.


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