Dappled patches of afternoon sunlight pierced through the arching limbs of the old cottonwood tree. The shade gave little relief from the July heat. Decades ago, an arm of the tree was broken off in a storm. I run my finger across the rings and try to count the years. As a child, in this very place, I had looked up to the heavens through the frame of this tree. This tree had provided a canopy of protection to my four-foot frame during long hours of imaginary play or hanging from the lower branches. Or building makeshift homes in the shaded grass. Or gathering up fist-fulls of purple wildflowers. This old tree overheard conversations of young dreams and countless squeals of little girl laughter. It was here that child-prayers were breathed out in the ordinary living of a day.
Standing beneath that old tree was like passing through a secret archway of forgotten hopes and dreams. Those dreams had faded in the heat of years and my own storms. Perhaps that’s why the words in Genesis 18:1-15 came alive for me.
This story unfolds in the heat of the day. Most likely just another searing hot day in the life of Abraham and Sarah.
I imagine it was a heat that pierced the fabric of their tent and the membrane of their tired souls.
Abraham is ninety-nine. Sarah is ten years younger.
The thing that had been promised did not exist. The dream Sarah most desired she did not hold.
The faith that had caused them to pack their bags and go to a place that God would show them was a twenty-five-year-old memory. The way the text reads suggests to me that Abraham and Sarah may have grown old and a little weary, as they wandered and waited on God.
We know that Sarah didn’t wait well. In fact, she had come up with a scheme to help God keep His promise to them. (Oh to all of us women who have taken matters into our own hands – made a mess of things in the process!)
And now it’s at least 12 years later and the rambunctious boy, Ismael, and his mom, Hagar, serve as a daily reminder to Sarah how her own plan had only brought strife into their world.
I wonder if Abraham and Sarah had settled into the thought: “This is probably as good as it gets.”
All these years wandering, the miles traveled, the mistakes made. I wonder if their dreams had died, along with their passion for life. And maybe each other.
But on this day, Abraham raises his eyes and becomes aware of three visitors. And while he could have pretended to be asleep or breath in another disappointed sigh, he didn’t. Instead, his heart is stirred to go quickly and serve these visitors.
On an ordinary day, living in wind-worn places where dreams have drifted away and they are too old and worn out to fight anymore.
That is the day God decided was the perfect time to show up.
The hot wind delivered the very breath of God, who would breathe new life into an old, worn out womb.
There is a miracle, within a miracle, that is still unfolding a legacy of miracles.
And God gets all the glory.
Old worn out Sarah has a baby boy and his name is Isaac. You may already know his name means, “Laughter.”
Even though Abraham laughed in disbelief. (Genesis 17:17)
Even though Sarah laughed in disbelief. (Genesis 18:12)
Abraham and Sarah were learning how God needed them to come to the end of their own strength, so He could exhibit His.
And in their old age, there was joy and laughter that couldn’t be silenced.
I hope that does someone’s heart good today.
What if it is in all the ordinary days, the passing of years, the long waiting, that a blessing beyond the number of stars or grains of sand is gathered?
Remember that old cottonwood tree from my childhood? Well, it stands at the end of the lane, near the old weathered barn on the place my husband and I purchased this year. We were just living another ordinary day of life when God unfolded a tucked-away dream. While it’s certainly involved days walking in faith as well as weakness and doubt, we didn’t scheme or strive to make it happen. It’s been a wild gift that we stood up and embraced.
And God gets all the glory.
How about you?
Are you in a season where you wonder, “Is this as good as it gets?”
Let’s choose to pray about His dream for us.
Because there is nothing too hard for the Lord.
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