“For I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you.” – Genesis 17:6
If I were God (be thankful I’m not) and I wanted to launch a new nation of monotheists, I would pick a young couple with proven procreative prowess, a couple with a teaming horde of offspring.
Instead God chose Abram and Sarai, a childless, elderly couple, people whose mantra when it came to childbirth was “we can’t.” God promised to give them a child and innumerable great- great grandchildren. When it finally happened, 25 years later, the message is clear. It was all God’s doing.
The lesson is not that faith overcomes infertility. The lesson is God helps those who cannot help themselves. Sometimes, it’s only when we admit we are powerless and say: “I can’t live a faithful life on my own, I can’t stay sober on my own, I can’t be a good parent or partner on my own,” that we are more open to hearing God say, “But I can . . . and I will bless you and countless people through you!”
After all, when we sing, “Amazing Grace” we don’t sing :
Unremarkable grace how ordinary the sound,
That bored a perfectly upstanding, capable, respected member of society like me.
I once was just temporarily misplaced through no fault of my own,
But now, thanks to my brains and quick wits,
I see what caused me to stumble and will avoid it next time.
Grace means less on the mountaintops of life, when we are exultant in our own accomplishments. Grace makes a better entrance in the valley, in the desert, in the barren places. Grace becomes real when it’s the only thing we’ve got left.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a soul like me.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.