And I Helped

And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”
(Genesis 15:4)

And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
(Genesis 16:2)

When my first child was born, one of my sisters had two young daughters. The first time I visited my old hometown with the baby, my nieces were fascinated by the tiny little boy and flocked around me. While visiting, I recall having to change him on a bed. My sister told her girls as they catapulted with the enthusiasm of the young onto the bed, “You can watch Aunt Heather change him, but DON’T HELP.”

A couple of years and two babies later, I understood the wisdom in these words.

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My older two helping console the baby

It seems a child’s enthusiastic help sometimes falls a little short of the adult standard.

Take Sarai (later known as Sarah). The Scriptures do not say specifically, but I have a strong suspicion the imbroglio involving her servant, Hagar, began as an attempt to help the Almighty fulfill His promise to her husband.

Certainly by now, her beloved Abram (later known as Abraham) had shared with her the Divine Promise of descendants as numerous as the dust.  The Lord had even reiterated the promise that a direct descendant of Abram/Abraham would be his heir.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the anticipated event added spice to their dinner conversation for many weeks to come. Yet when months, then years, passed and there was no child, it seems they became discouraged.

I can imagine their suppers gradually becoming less and less about dreaming of their son and more and more about fueling up for the dreary days ahead. And despite the barbed nature of her own words (see verse 16:2 above), I rather doubt Sarai thrust Hagar into the mix as an act of revenge.

Surely, she must have rationalized the choice. After all, she wasn’t getting any younger. It seemed pretty clear by now that God must have meant to use some other mode or method than her to fulfill His word. And besides, other people did it this way.

But despite what we ought to assume were the best of intentions (after all, isn’t that what we want others to assume about us?), Hagar’s pregnancy did not initiate an era of familial warmth and unity.

And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.
(Genesis 16:5-6)

Oy. Not a pretty picture.

(If you want to find out how the story turns out, go ahead and read the rest of Genesis 16. Heck, while you’re at it, read the rest of the Bible. There are plenty of little lessons like this one tucked in those pages.)

You see, this story came to me recently in a very personal way. Around the same time God was chopping up a root of bitterness to bake into the humble pie He was preparing for me, He also pointed out a little corner of misplaced childish enthusiasm.

While I can’t share details, suffice to say there was an area of my life where I, with absolute sincerity, was driving forward full-tilt, eager provide an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work.

I thought I was tilling the soil but in actuality think I was just making scratches in the dust. Over time my endeavors consumed increasing amounts of energy for decreasing amounts of fruit.

And when I’d finally had enough, I cried out to my Father, begging Him to tell me what I was doing wrong. And He did.

First, He reminded me of Sarai’s story. Persistently.

And then, of course, He reminded me that if I want to see His power at work, the best thing I can do is wait on Him.

Oh yes, and DON’T HELP.

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23 thoughts on “And I Helped

  1. That is such a good illustration. Oh and can you imagine the dinner conversations? I cringe just thinking about some of them. First, yes God is coming. Then, where’s God? Then, heres my servant to take as your concubine. Then, anger and getting bitter because of the Hagar. Ugh. It would make for great reality tv.

    Love your story too. I’ve had to manage that situation a number of times with excitenent to help but sayinf to am excited little kiddo…”maybe we should just watch instead of help.” 🙂 kids are great helpers. But sometines its maybe not a great idea. And I know I’ve done that a couple times myself with God.

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    1. Absolutely! I used to tell my kids the best way they could help me was to do what I ask them to do. And of course, I could feel the weight of conviction even as I said the words. :-/

      I do imagine the conversations between Abraham and Sarah. Ugh. Years ago, I saw a meme going around that was supposed to be about “biblical” marriage with silhouette figures. It would show a man, his wife, and their slave; a man and several wives; etc. The whole idea was to mock the idea of Bible-based morality. It always cracked me up because if you actually read the Bible, it’s impossible not to see the conflict these types of relationships created – not to mention that those were never in the original design of one man and one woman. ..

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      1. I remember a couple weeks ago our pastor was doing a sermon (the topic escapes me) and then out of nowhere he just went off on this tangent about polygamy. I call it a tangent, it was a full on rant. He was going off on polygamy and how he thinks it’s making a comeback and how unbiblical it is. Which I totally agree with. It was just so…out of place. I kept trying to stifle a smile and a chuckle, thinking this is a conversation that probably best belonged a millennia or two ago. Haha.

        Oh my goodness…what about Elkanah and Hannah and Peninnah? That’s just begging to be on an episode of Maury. Or Leah trading rachel mandrakes (which has hallucinagenic properties – its like hard drugs) to sleep with Jacob? Its a relational mess!

        Ugh.

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      2. I know! And none of those relationships were exactly harmonious. The rivalry between wives, Hannah’s tears because of Peninnah flaunting all her kids and Elkanah’s super-sensitive remark, “Aren’t I worth more to you than many sons?!” What a consolation, huh?

        Or Rachel telling Jacob to give her children or she’d die… as if it were all up to him. Ha! No thanks!!

        That’s a little nutty about the tangential sermon. Wonder what on earth was going on that he felt the need to address it from the pulpit? Never mind – actually, I don’t want to know.

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      3. Hahaha!! I never thought about that…maybe he had someone who he was trying to correct behind the scenes who was tempted by the sin of polygamy and he was venting to the church. Haha! Oh I shouldn’t laugh, but goodness, I didn’t think those were actually still legitimate temptations in our society. But then again, considering where we are at as a nation spiritually, it wouldn’t surprise me.

        Oh goodness, both of those families just sound like a mess. Its actually a testament to God that he used those situations in the way that he did to illustrate his wisdom and power. That’s a miracle in itself!!

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      4. I always wonder… My husband always says people always act logically within their own context. The trick is trying to figure out where they’re coming from. In some cases (like a serial killer, for instance), we’re better off not knowing. But in things like a seemingly random rant, there’s often a reason we just don’t see. It is kind of funny for sure. And you’re right – in today’s world, who knows?

        You’re right – God’s use of those families (and of yours truly – haha!!) is a miracle. That He can use this mess we give Him and bring something breathtaking out of it is a testament to His goodness for sure!

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      5. Thats a good point!! Might have made perfect sense to the pastor at the time! *cringe*

        Amen he can do wondrous things out of our messes! Hope you all have a great Saturday!!

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  2. I relate sometimes I feel like I’m tilling the soil too, and you’re right, we barely touch the surface of what God has in mind! A lot of times it was because I was too eager, I didn’t slow down. I was not ready to really wait and get the “GO” signal from God.

    So true!!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Definitely guilty! I often ask Him to keep me from running ahead because I think I understand what He’s saying (sometimes before He finishes saying it), but also not to let me lag behind in doubt.

      Honestly, every day, I’m reminded in one way or another how I need Him every hour like the old hymn says! How truly Jesus spoke when He said, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing…” 🙂

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    1. Me, too. I need to go back and collect all the photo fails through the years. It’s funny to me that some of those photos were frustrating at the time because I just wanted one good one. Now they are so, so fun to go back and see. Ahh… remember the days when we could pick them up and haul them to their rooms if they had a temper tantrum? Anyway, it gives me hope we will look back on the current battles with some humor as well!

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  3. Great post! I definitely have the tendency to want to “help” God handle things in my life. Funny how when I keep my hands off and only do what he says, he makes things work out so much better! Thanks for the reminder. Cute kiddos too 😉

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    1. Who knew, right? Haha! Every time I look back on one of my “helps,” I have to wonder what I was thinking? Did I actually think the Almighty might need assistance?
      And thanks about the kiddos. They’re all teenagers now… seems like yesterday!

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  4. I LOVE this post! And yes, it is so easy to run ahead of God… but He knows and gives much better than I could ever imagine or achieve in my own power or strength. True wisdom in your words, Heather! Thank you for this wonderful reminder! ❤ ❤

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