by Sister Dorene King, OSB
We’re getting older. The promise of new life appearing among us old folk wanes with each passing day. Where are these descendants . . . countless as the stars or grains of sands upon the seashore? Abraham and I are not getting any younger. Even if we are full of sap, still green, that does not seem enough to compensate for our barrenness. Our vision of hope grows dim as we wait for your promise to be fulfilled. (Psalm 69:3)
There is wisdom in waiting, even though the promise does delay. Doubt sets in amid a persistent call to hope. Yet, we must linger for a time in the land of barrenness. Many projections of diminishment via graphs and statistical study stifle trust in the promise of new life.
Statistically speaking, Abraham and Sarah in their advanced age had no reason to hope for progeny. They were well past the age of bringing forth new life. Yet, their belief in God’s promise of descendants would not dissipate.
How could they continue to trust solely in the promise when the evidence, the statistical possibility of birthing a child, was so unfavorable? Actually, Abraham had concluded that new generations would not issue forth from Sarah and him.
At this point, Abraham is filled with doubt that anyone will come after them. God recognizes Abraham’s fear that this long, awaited promise has been delayed and so reiterates the promise. In Genesis, chapter 15, God repeats the promise to Abraham: “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be.”
We, in our modern sensibilities, look at this promise and shake our heads in disbelief. Abraham and Sarah are such an unlikely pair to conceive a child. Yes, we know that Isaac was born to them. Yet, how could two elders have the energy and desire to guide Isaac along the formative paths of toddler, childhood and adolescent years? Perhaps, those who journeyed with Abraham and Sarah took part in the formation of Isaac. The hope and promise of nurturing new life went beyond Abraham and Sarah to blessing the whole community.
A key insight of biblical faith is that only those who hope will be given God’s gifts. The gift of God is given especially to those who trust and who will risk according to what is promised.
What are we relying upon as we face our future? We weekly confess that God brings life out of death . . . “We believe in the resurrection __________.” Prior to our earthly death, God surprises us with new life. Do we perceive it? Perhaps we need to cultivate the wisdom of waiting and thereupon the wisdom of discerning those who are and will bring new life among us. There is a future to be given us. It will spring forth out of seeming barrenness and will birth new life among us.
Let’s leave behind the statistical charts and calculated timetables. We need to relinquish control of our destiny. Like Abraham and Sarah, we need to trust God’s intention to energize us with life-giving sap and adorn our community with the greening of new life.
Are we willing to be part of the new creation which God desires for our community? “The old has passed away, the new has come. All this is from God.” (I Corinthians 5).