Thinking of what to write each week is sometimes more difficult than others. I'm still waiting for the final word on the most recent round of insurance claims (though there is a step of progress that I can see the claim is processing with the DME label instead of Physician's visit, and the TB rep went to his contact at Cigna to advocate for me). I read three of the most incredible books this week, and I considered how I could share their insights or encourage my readers to just read those this week - but I also read the book of Hebrews everyday and spent nearly twenty minutes on my treadmill almost every day. This is an impressive feat for a paraplegic (the walking, not the reading), but I'm not done yet, and I've spent a lot of time considering goals and next steps as I keep caring for my body and making progress. In conjunction with the time on the treadmill, I realised the more practical post for this week was reflecting on how Abraham’s wife and I have a lot in common related to our wanderings and walking. I've spent a lot of time pondering Sarah and how she is remembered by New Testament writers, and I wish this morning's Scripture reading included one more verse - Jon stopped at Hebrews 11:10 - so I won't touch on Nigel's good words on faith from this morning's ACB service (okay, maybe a little because it was a very good message).
Verse eleven is the tiny note about Sarah, remembered as a hero of faith who "received the power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”
I'm about to take off running here because, you see, back in Genesis, Sarah laughed. She did not have an instant and unwavering belief when God made the promise to Abraham that he would father nations. In fact, her first response as a barren old woman past menopause was to encourage her husband to rape her handmaid to make an heir. Spoilers, that didn't work well for Sarah or Hagar. Then when The Lord came around to remind Abraham of his promises, he added specifically that Sarah would have a baby - and the eavesdropping matriarch of faith laughed out loud. How ridiculous, she thought, to expect a miraculous promise to Abraham to happen through an even bigger miracle in her. How ridiculous, I thought, when God told me to expect a miracle in my physical body through an even bigger miracle in someone else’s heart. Don’t worry, I’ve been properly called out over the past 355 days just like the heavenly visitor immediately addressed Sarah snickering in the corner and promised to see her holding a baby within a year.
Sarah wandered alongside Abraham for a long time, and after her shout out in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith,” the writer talks about the wandering of the early followers who kept their eyes on the promises they never saw in complete fulfilment. I honestly don’t know how my story will play out, but my eyes are on the Author and Perfecter of my faith. One of Nigel’s major sermon points was to keep our eyes on Jesus, and I’ve had countless conversations this past year with Lauren about how I don’t get what God is working out right now, but my eyes are on Jesus and the Lord has promised good to me. Regardless of how my story plays out, I know I'm closer to Jesus each day when I keep my eyes fixed on him. Hebrews 11 stresses that all these people had the chance to turn back to where they came from, but they considered God's plan better; Moses took scorning and punishment for God's name rather than the riches of Egypt and such. Where else would I go? Jesus is the only one with the words of life; I'm sticking it out.
The other place Sarah shows up in the New Testament is in 1 Peter 3 - in the very passage I spent a season memorizing earlier this year. Months ago, I had an incredible conversation with a Greek speaking student about the original words referencing her obedience to Abraham. He told me that what is rendered as "unanxious and unintimidated" in The Message describes Sarah as unashamed of who she was in Greek. The story that first comes to mind with this reference is when Abraham hands her off to be added to Pharaoh's harem to save his own life. Bold move. But Sarah obliges, and God shows up to rescue her from rape.
I am confident of who I am in Christ. Who knows what perilous situations I'll end up in... you know, like paralysis and nerve damage... but that won't shake my confidence in the God who shows up, faithful to his promises. I might laugh at the thought of miracles, but I'll still believe in them and gratefully receive them, keeping my eyes on Jesus and journeying along this weird story where I spend twenty minutes or so on the treadmill everyday until the miracle moment changes my capacity. I'll ask for everything, even though I might laugh at the thought of what that means here or there. See, just before the "Hall of Faith" is that passage I referenced months ago that a student on my prayer team messaged me in the middle of the night during the worst of my insomnia last fall - "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, 'In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.' And, 'But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.' But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved."
I really love that passage. It's meant a lot to me this year. Chris even painted verse 36 on a cool canvas for me and hung it in my kitchen as a regular reminder to persevere. Some days are harder than others, but some miles feel longer than others in a marathon (or so I'm told). I'm in a marathon, not a sprint.
Back to the treadmill for now.