“The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; … but Sarai was barren, she had no child.”
Genesis 11: 29,30
King James Version
“Sarai: Only an Appendage of Abraham?”
“There is, I suppose, no occupation in the world which has an influence on the efficiency and happiness of the members of nearly all other occupations so continuous and so permeating as that of the working housewife and mother.”
Eleanor F. Rathbone
“Appendage” – A part joined to an organ or trunk.
How do I view myself in relationship to others in my life?
“Be Who You Are”
“Be who you are,
and may you be blessed
in all that you are.”
Adapted from a prayer from
My husband and I had been married just a few months when we began to get those quizzical questions. “When are you going to start a family? Are you going to have children? How many kids do you want?”
Probably every married couple has been asked these questions at some point. But for Jim and me, the questions were like knives through our hearts, for we, by then, were well aware that we could not have children of our own.
After repeated questioning and downright nosiness, I finally decided that when anyone had the gall to ask such intimate questions, I’d answer with: “We can’t have children. I’m unable to have a child.” There it was. The hard, cold truth laid out for everyone to hear.
You would think my blunt honesty might close the mouths of those who wanted to pry into another person’s business, however, you’d be flat wrong. What followed was, at times, even worse. “Well, if you don’t have kids what are you going to do with your life? How does Jim feel? Does it bother him that you can’t have a baby?”
On and on the questions continued for many years. At times I felt as though my only purpose in marriage was to give my husband an “heir.”
Sounds rather strange to be talking this way in the 21st century. You and I would like to believe that the stereotypes and labels which have bound women for thousands of years don’t shackle women today.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All of us still find that women, the world over, are bound by certain attitudes that can attempt to keep women in boxes.
In looking at the life of Sarai, we soon find out that before we know anything about her, except who her husband was, we are told she was barren. The first mention of her name attaches her to a man and then informs us that as a “fertility specialist” for her husband, Abram, she was a flop.
Beginning in Old Testament times, lacking the ability to conceive a child was grounds for dismissal as a wife. Marrying a woman who could not provide an heir to carry on the family name, was a fate worse than death.
So here’s Sarai, identified by “who” she married and “what” she could not give him. Sarai, an appendage of a man – and a dried up appendage at that. What, I ask, might others have thought Sarai’s purpose was? Please don’t think me foolish to ask this question for I can validate that people, after finding out I couldn’t have a child, actually asked me what I was “going to do with my life?”
This brings me to the heart of our lesson today. And for a moment, I’m just talking to the women in the garden. When we look at all women, I believe God has a unique and special purpose for each one of us. It might be easy when we first meet Sarai to believe that her entire reason for living revolved around her man – Abram. Maybe you feel the same way! “Oh, you are so-in-so’s wife, you’re Billy’s mom, you are just a housewife.” Don’t tell me you haven’t heard these words before. Someone may have tossed these your way. “You clean and cook all day? You are a stay-at-home mom? Well, what are you going to really do with your life?” These comments can be hurled cruelly at mothers who have chosen to stay home with their children. And I say emphatically – never demean a woman who has chosen this path.
By the same token, millions of women around the world find themselves living under such financial hardship that if it weren’t for their back-bending labor outside the home everyday, their children would have nothing to eat.
I appreciate the words of Penina Adelman in her discussion about Sarai: “Sarah has a name and a voice. Her story bears reading more than once in order to answer the question: ‘Is Sarah an individual in her own right?’ Sometimes I find myself judging another woman who has not chosen the same path I have. ‘How can she live that way?’ I ask myself. ‘Isn’t she missing_________ (you fill in the blank)? How can she make those choices?’”
The great lesson of Sarai’s life, one that runs through everything that happened to her, is that God has a plan for each of us. His plan for you won’t be the same as His plan for me. Why? Because God’s plan is molded to fit the specific characteristics He has created in me. Like a well-fitting glove on a hand, God’s plan conforms to the uniqueness that is Dorothy or Karen or Audrey or Josette or Slavicia. We are each beautifully carved into the perfect person God wants us to be, and He knows we will fit perfectly into His picture.
No, girlfriends! Sarai was no appendage tacked onto someone else. She was a rib, taken and molded outside of another being, fashioned by God’s own hands to fit the purpose God had for her. Let me add one more thing. What sometimes appears to us as barrenness, may only be God’s timetable working just a little slower than ours. And one day, the infertile place in your life, the place that seems so unfruitful will bare a harvest that is “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”….(Ephesians 3: 20, K.J.V.).
“How Could I reject Who I Am”
“A fish cannot drown in water. A bird cannot fall in the air. Gold is not dissolved in fire—for there it receives its brilliant sheen. This gift is given to everything. To live with its own nature. How could I oppose who I am? I am inclined toward God.”
Mechtild of Magdeburg
“Blessed Are You”
woman of strength
order and chaos
forging new dreams
and promised tomorrows.
Blessed are you
woman of passion
touching all you reach
the heart of
Blessed are you
woman of the earth
Sculpted from its clay
and fired by
the very breath of God
forming and firing
the One who
Calls you by name.
Blessed are you
laughter and tears
cleansing and healing
who touch your face.
Blessed are you
woman of wisdom
mystery and myth
revealing truth and light
for all who yearn
to call themselves free.”
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