Abram said [to God], “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” God took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord. – Genesis 15:3-6 (NIV)
It could be that your faith is not the kind that thinks God owes you anything. Lucky you! God will never disappoint.
But Abram was of the other sort. God promised him—more than once—that he would have a son to carry on his name. In our age of a million ways of leaving a legacy after our passing (The Internet Is Forever), it might be hard for us to understand why childbearing was so important for Abram. But it was everything.
And then God, despite those very clear promises, failed to deliver. For decades. Until long past Sarai’s procreative years. It must have seemed that God was toying with them: either distracted with a million other concerns, or worse, teasing and never intending to follow through.
What does it mean when we think God has made a promise to us that is not kept … at least for a very long time? Does God have a short attention span? Is God prevented by other forces—perhaps malevolent ones—from acting sooner? Is God waiting for something in us to finally be receptive, the combination lock of our hearts to click open? Or does God, who lives in the past-present-future, know exactly the right timing?
God, give us the courage to ask you for what we really want. To listen for your answer, perhaps even make us a promise. And then give us the patience to wait as long as it takes for you to make good. Amen.
Molly Baskette pastors at First Church Berkeley (CA) UCC. She is the author of several books about church renewal, parenting & faith, and spirituality. You can connect with her by subscribing to her newsletter, Doomsday Dance Party.