Advent 2016: Out of the way

Readings: 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Genesis 21:1-21; Galatians 4:21 – 5:1

Now and then I find myself repeating old story lines, habits, and lessons. I can’t be alone in this.

One of my regular lessons is about my willingness and desire to pick up other people’s burdens or problems and attempt to carry them. I call this “the Mothering Problem.” It is my tendency to see hurt and broken people and try to help them to a healed place.

But over and over I have learned the lesson that my picking up another’s burden to fix it…or obsessing over helping them get to “the right” answer for their lives, is counterproductive to their growth and exhausting for me.

So she (Sarah) turned to Abraham and demanded, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!’

This upset Abraham very much because Ishmael was his son. But God told Abraham, ‘Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.’ (Genesis 21:10-13)

What Abraham wanted so badly here was to make peace in his home among the women and children living there. But he was dealing with a situation fraught with jealousy and power imbalance. And in his moment of doubt, God asked him to trust that God could do what was needed.

When I learn that the people I try to help/save/control/support people, sometimes I take away the space in which God can work her magic. I need to get out of the way and trust God to do what he’ll do.

But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, ‘Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.’

Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.

And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness. (Genesis 21:17-20a)

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