Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's in a Name? (Part 1)

I have always known where I got my name, Sarah Elizabeth; Sarah being most immediately from my paternal grandmother, Sarah Opal, and also historically from the bible, Sarah, Abraham's wife. But today I felt like it would be a good reminder to look back on the women that held my name before me, so I started in Genesis 16-21 where Sarah was originally Sarai.

Sarai is most famously known for not being able to conceive a child and, afraid of embarrassing her husband, Abram (later renamed Abraham), for leaving him without an heir, she sends him to her maid, Hagar, so that they can make a baby and carry on the family name. But as women typically do, she changed her mind. As soon as they'd done the deed she told Abram that he was stupid for going to Hagar and she was stupid for letting him. Abram (trying to avoid the classic wife nagging session) told Sarai she could do whatever she wanted with Hagar to get back at her (I see this same principle still in effect today: the man's bad behavior is overlooked by the vengeful wife who instead turns all her venom on the "other woman"). 
This leads Hagar to running away where she meets an angel who tells her she will have a son by Abram and he will grow up to be a wild child. Now at this point in the Old Testament soap opera (I like to think of it as "The Old and the Fruitless") Abram is 86 years old. Jump forward 13 years to Abram's 99th birthday, and the Lord appears to Abram and promises him that he will be the father of many, many children and descendants, and not through Hagar, but through his wife, Sarai. So he renames him Abraham ("Father of Many Nations") and here's where my name first comes into play (Genesis 17):
15Then God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.
 16"I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."

So to summarize, my predecessor started as a barren woman who never thought she could have a baby, but ended up being the mother of one of the greatest men (Isaac) in all of the B-I-B-L-E. The thing I really like about Sarah was that God used a COMPLETELY normal person to do this awesome thing. See, God tells Sarah that she will have a child and she has gone so many years trying and failing to have a baby that she actually LAUGHS at God out of disbelief.  But God sees her doubt and decides that he's gonna follow through with his promise anyway, because he's cool like that. So God blesses Sarah with a son when Abraham is 100 years old and Sarah says, "God has made laughter for me, everyone who hears will laugh with me," and they name him Isaac, which means laughter.

I am thankful to have been named after two wonderful women, my Memaw Opal who was the sweetest, most generous, and best hugging woman that I am convinced ever walked the face of this earth; and Abraham's scared, hurt, and unbelieving wife, Sarai, who God used even in the most unlikely of circumstances to prove that what really matters is how big God is, not how little our faith is.

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