Tag Archives: Barren

Message: “Love Hopes All Things”

I mentioned the attached message in Monday’s post Hope and Disappointment. The message, in which I share about Wendy’s and my journey through infertility, talks about three important waypoints we went through in coping with the disappointment, when our strongest hopes remained unrealized.

I’ve included the message here in both audio and video formats. These are posted with the permission of Third Church in Pella, IA who holds all rights.

Surprised Anew by the Struggle to Hang On

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren, having borne no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son.”
Judges 13:2-3 (NRSV)

Any who sojourn through God’s Message will run across a number of stories of divine fertility like the one in today’s chapter. You can’t escape them. It is a recurring theme. When you have journeyed along the path of infertility, stories like this carry an emotional wallop. It is not a knockout punch as from a lone opponent standing before you. It is more like being surrounded and getting sucker punched from various directions before you have time to react.

Grief from giving up hope pushes one way, while eternal hope kicks in from another direction sending me spinning in two directions at once. Anger from “Why not us?”  hits hard in the gut just before faith in the possibility that God might still do something miraculous tugs me suddenly upright. Shame slides in from behind to trip me with “What have we done wrong?” and I struggle to maintain equilibrium with a less than confident “Thy will be done.” Contorted suddenly in unexpected ways, scabs stretch to the point of tearing old wounds open. I consciously reach for Joy that appears in this moment to be just beyond my reach.

Joy is not beyond reach. I grasp it. I cling. Some days I’m surprised anew by the struggle to hang on.

chapter a day banner 2015

featured image “El Angelus” by Jean-Francois Millet

Understanding Michal

English: Maciejowski Bible, Leaf 37, the 3rd i...
English: Maciejowski Bible, Leaf 37, the 3rd image, Abner (in the center in green) sends Michal back to David. Palti is shown on the left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” 2 Samuel 6:20 (NIV)

Writing plays has been a great learning experience for me. One of the creative challenges that I’ve had to embrace is that every character in the play has a unique “voice” the comes from a back story the audience will never know or see. If I’m going to write a character well, then I have to understand that character’s story, person, and perspective. I’ve come to believe that I must truly love each character, even the unlovable ones, if I am going to give them their true and authentic voice and words.

I’ve always said that God’s Message changes every time you read it not because it has changed but because I and my circumstances have changed since the last time I read it. As I read today’s chapter I suddenly realized that I was reading it with the eyes of a playwright. I’ve always read this chapter and focused on David’s “undignified” worship, but today I found myself focused on Michal’s rebuke of her husband. I’ve always read Michal’s words and thought, “Sheesh, what a wench!” This time through, however, my playwright brain began asking what was really going on between Michal and David. There’s a larger back story there. Michal and David seem to have been those people who had the seeds of affection doomed never to take root:

  • Michal had a young girl’s crush on the young stud warrior David.
  • Michal’s father sought to wed her to David, not because he wanted what was best for his daughter but because he saw she could be used as his pawn in a desire to follow the Michael Coreleone playbook of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Michal obviously was little loved by her father. He saw his daughter as a “snare” for his enemies.
  • Despite any teenage affections between them, David initially rebuffs being betrothed to her on the grounds he wasn’t worthy to marry the king’s daughter. I wonder how that made her feel?
  • Saul gives David a “price” of earning his betrothal to Michal of bringing him a 100 Philistine foreskins (Gross, I know. It was a brutal time in history). Saul figured David would be killed in the attempt, but instead David brings back two hundred Philistine foreskins to claim Michal. Pissed off and humiliated, Saul tries to assassinate David, but his newly betrothed wife Michal helps him escape out a window.
  • David flees the area for many years abandoning Michal in the home of her mentally ill father. Saul marries Michal off to another man.
  • Many years later David shows up the conquering hero. In a relational and political power play he demands his childhood bride be returned to him. Michal is ripped away from the man she’s been married to and made a home with. She is forcibly taken to David. Her husband follows in tears begging not to be separated from her. I wonder whom Michal truly loved. Was it her husband who was begging in tears not to lose her or the man who rejected and abandoned her and was now demanding her like she was a piece of impersonal property and a spoil of war?
  • We are told that Michal had no children until the day of her death. I am ashamed to confess that in my ignorance I have always seen this fact as some sort of divine punishment of Michal. I can’t see it that way now. I hurt for Michal and the difficult circumstances she was placed by her culture, her mentally ill father, and her betrothed young husband who treated her with indifference and contempt. As we begin to see what a messed up family system David creates as a horribly flawed husband and father, I begin to contemplate that Michal’s barrenness may have ultimately been for the best.

Michal’s rebuke of David’s actions may have seemed inappropriate on the surface of things, but I now see that they were motivated by feelings of abandonment, rejection, anger, and bitterness. Given the circumstance and the backstory, I totally see why there was so much conflict between the two of them. Their story is a tragedy. I wish David would have been man enough and loving enough to allow Michal to live out her life in peace with the only man in her life who ever really seemed to love her.

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Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 4

A dry and thirsty land. Elisha said to her, "This time next year you're going to be nursing an infant son."

"O my master, O Holy Man," she said, "don't play games with me, teasing me with such fantasies!" 
2 Kings 4:16 (MSG)

Promises feel profane to those whose life experience sit in opposition to that which is promised.

Mary was young and naive when Gabriel told her she would conceive and bear a son. We applaud her faith in joyfully embracing the message. Seriously, she had no concept of the pain of barrenness. That was not her journey. She would experience a different kind of barrenness and pain 30 years later.

The promise of a child is another thing altogether to a woman who has believed and hoped for years, and has nothing to show for it. Promise that woman she will conceive and you'll be met with Sarah's sarcastic and cynical laughter. You will feel defenses rise. You might even get the biting reply of the Shunnamite woman telling Elisha and God, in certain words, to keep their promises to themselves.

Promises are an encouragement to some. They are a burden for others.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Eric Rice

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 2

Wilderness wandering. Pharaoh heard about it and tried to kill Moses, but Moses got away to the land of Midian. He sat down by a well. Exodus 2:15 (MSG)

It's amazing to think about how much story can be crammed into one verse; how much life experience can be condensed into two short sentences.

Moses, the "chosen one" now stripped of every luxurious blessing that was afforded him as an adopted son of Pharaoh. Moses, the murderer. Moses, the man on Egypt's "Most Wanted" list. Moses, the man on the lam. Moses, the rich and famous member of the King's household now alone, broke, and homeless in the barren wastelands.

How often do we find God's people alone in the wilderness? Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden, and flung into the wilderness outside. Abraham leaving his comfortable home to become a nomadic wanderer. The nation of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years in search of the Promised Land. David, anointed king of Israel, flees from Saul into the wilderness of Judah and waits almost 30 years before ascending to the throne. Elijah, the triumphant prophet, flees into the wilderness in fear for his life. John the Baptist, preaching repentance from his desert pulpit. Jesus, led into the wilderness for 40 days of testing and temptation.

Life's road leads us all to barren places. The wilderness is an unavoidable stretch of the journey for any who desire to follow in Jesus' footsteps. You don't learn about perseverance in Pharoah's palace. The lifestyles of the rich and famous do little to build the necessary character qualities God desires from His disciples. Purity is acheived in the refining fire. Maturity is found on the journey through the hinterlands.

And, you never know what divine appointment God has for you when you stop at the well for a drink.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Hamed

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