Sarah: Strength and Sin Combined

“So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don’t somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Last week we looked at Esther: beautiful, smart, loyal, brave, young. Sarah, this week’s Bible woman of the week, earns the first four of those adjectives. But she’s no spring chicken — and who says Bible heroes have to be young? Most aren’t. And who cares?

I do. I’d rather have my heroes be older, tougher, wiser, stronger, more resilient — characteristics that are come over the course of a well-lived life.

Sarah was sixty-five when she began the key part of her life’s work — that of going into the wilderness, never to return. She was ninety years old when the most important event of her life took place: the birth of her son, Isaac. In the meantime, she spent thirty-five years on must have seemed like an endless wilderness trek; arranged for her husband to impregnate her servant, Hagar; banished Hagar to the desert; laughed at God for saying she’d have a baby in her late years; went through labor and delivery as an old woman — and then had to learn about Abraham almost killing her beloved son because Abe thought that was what God wanted.

My favorite part? The part where she laughs at the angels, God included, when they say she will have a baby in old age…and then lies to Abraham when he asks her about it.

She laughs; I hear a great belly laugh. The thought of a baby is preposterous, and probably hasn’t even been a possibility for Sarah in at least forty years. But nothing is too much for God, and just as predicted, a son was born.

Sarah lives to a grand old age of 135. The land for her grave is the first land purchased in the Promised Land. She was both a woman of strength and a woman of sin. Banishing Hagar was a really bad idea.

But I’d like to think that somehow that Sarah and Hagar have found peace. I’d like to think that Hagar’s descendants — the children of Muhammad — will find peace with Sarah’s descendants — the Jewish people, our spiritual forebears.

We can only hope. And pray.

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