Main story, Side story

Readings: 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Genesis 21:1-21; Galatians 4:21-5:1

What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid: for God has heard the voice of the boy from where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him… and God was with the boy, and he grew up… Genesis 21:17-18, 20a

Sarah didn’t want Ishmael around to inherit anything. As far as she was concerned, her own son Isaac deserved it all. Getting rid of Hagar and her son didn’t sit well with Abraham, but after talking with God he let Sarah have her way. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away, and Sarah’s Isaac didn’t have to share his father’s blessing with his half brother. As far as Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac are concerned, Hagar and Ishmael disappear from the story of their lives and their faith. The main story goes on as it was meant to: Abraham becomes the father of a people through his son, Isaac.

But that’s Isaac’s main story, not Ishmael’s. Hagar and Ishmael have their own story and their own holy adventure. God seeks them out, providing water in the desert and a future full of blessing and faith. For Ishmael and Hagar, it’s their story that takes main stage. Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac fade into the background for them.

So whose story is the main one? They are both about mothers and sons, fathers and faith. They cross paths on the way to separate blessings and adventures.

As I journey to Bethlehem, may I remember that there are any number of faith stories in the world, and countless people whom God cares for. They may get no more than a passing mention in my faith story, but that says more about my own limited awareness than it does about God’s loving care.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Main story, Side story”

  1. Thanks, Bill. I always wonder about the stories that briefly touch my own – the ones I’ll never know. What blessings are in them?

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