In some ways, Sarah is brutal. She’s old, cranky, pushy and domineering. She’s 65 when she leaves home with Abraham to go to God-only-knows (really). She tramps through deserts and mountains and other wild places with only the promise that God will provide children to Abraham, as many as there are stars in the sky. But year after year, no baby arrives. And then she comes to the horrible realization that God has promised Abraham children, not her.

Yet she believes in the idea of covenant and marriage. And she’s got this beautiful, young, Egyptian servant girl named Hagar around camp who apparently is very fertile. For God’s sake — God’s, not hers; not Abraham’s — she sends Abe into Hagar’s tent for one purpose: to produce a baby. By law, that baby would belong to Abraham and Sarah, not Abraham and Hagar.

Who knows how much time it took Abe and Hagar to conceive? It could have been a one-time thing. It could have lasted for years. No wonder she was cranky and jealous, even if it was her idea.

But then, many years later after twists and turns in their journey, God tells Abraham that Sarah WILL conceive. And she does. She calls the child Isaac, which means “to laugh.”

People don’t really get Sarah. They think she should have been patient. But how many women do you know that get pregnant in their ‘80s, in their ‘90s? She was tough. She made other plans to make sure that God’s promise would be kept. Human and resilent. I like her. She never stopped believing that she was part of God’s plan. She bet everything on it. It kept her going. And finally, years down the road, God admitted to Abe that a child would come to Sarah — and that she, in fact, was part of the deal. (Which she had known all along.)

Without her, there’d be no Isaac, no Jacob, no Joseph. Without her, we’d have no great example of laughing in the Bible, for as the angels told Abraham that Sarah would (finally) bear a child at the age of ninety, she broke out laughing. And who knows what she was laughing at? Herself? Abraham? He was ninety, after all.

A group I will mostly likely talk to in the spring wondered if my presentation on Bible women would be more educational than entertaining. I think they were saying they didn’t want to be bored with dry Bible stuff. I’m not in the humor business, but as long as I’m sticking with the real stuff in the Bible, they’re not going to go without a laugh. Or two. Our spiritual foremothers, as Sarah proved so well laughing outside the tent — and then lying to Abe about it — did not lack for humor, and neither should we.

So what do we learn from Sarah?

We’re never too old to serve.

If you don’t laugh, you might as well be dead. Or bored, at least.

Sarah had a goal and she didn’t let up or let go of it.

She was strong, true to herself, family and God.