Read Genesis 18.1-15
I used to think the older you were, the less you were surprised by life. I thought that with age came wisdom, and that with wisdom, you could figure life out so that nothing would catch you off guard. You develop the capacity to anticipate, to plan ahead, to prepare for the best and worst life has to offer.
It is true that wisdom comes with life experience. We can learn from our mistakes. We can be prepared. Still, life surprises us in wonderful and sometimes frightening ways. It is wonderful when God blesses us more than we could have possibly expected. It is frightening when something catches us off guard, when we aren’t prepared. It is particularly difficult as we grow older, to adapt to the rapid changes around us and within us.
Sarah is one older adult who experiences both a wonderful and frightening surprise. She and Abraham had spent much of their lives together hoping for a child. They longed for an heir, someone to on whom to pass their legacy. They desperately hoped and planned for a birth, and none came. As they grew older, they no doubt lost hope, and adapted to life without children. Over time they adapted quite well. They became the kind of couple who welcomed strangers, who spent their love on the community.
This must have been particularly difficult for Sarah. To be barren in Biblical times meant to be cursed, looked down upon, scorned. Sarah bore the pain of this ridicule. Abraham and Sarah had given up the hope of bearing a child. They were going about their business, serving the needs of others, when suddenly three strangers announce that Sarah will conceive and have a child. Sarah laughs at such a notion. What an idea! Who could have expected this?
Sarah laughs at the crazy ways of God, that God makes possible what seems to us impossible. God surprises us, even when we are older and think we have it all figured out. Sarah laughs at the wonderful surprise God has in store for her. We can laugh with her, knowing that God blesses us even after we’ve given up and gone on with our lives. God interrupts our busy lives with a hope so wonderful we could not have imagined it. Once they laughed at Sarah, when she was barren. Now God and Sarah have the last laugh, one filled with joy that wipes away scorn and tears.
Still, God’s promise was not all a bed of roses for Sarah. She still had to endure nine months of pregnancy, the pain of labor, the sleepless nights, the constant care. At an age when she could have been a grandmother, Sarah became a mother. Think of all the hard work ahead of her. I can’t help but think that with her laughter there was mixed a few tears, wondering if she were up to the task, thinking about the tremendous changes ahead.
Sarah laughs out of sheer joy that God has not forgotten her. This joy has been nurtured through hard times, through difficult and painful struggles. This joy of Sarah gave her the strength to endure and the courage to adapt when the world around her and within her changed. Sarah is one older adult who has maintained her ability to laugh and her laughter gives birth to new life.
You see, we never retire from God. God never puts us out to pasture, no matter how old we become. As long as we live God has something in store for us. Our lives have meaning and purpose. The challenge for us is to determine what this is and to live it out, even if it seems crazy at first.
For Sarah, if was to become a mother, even in her old age. Just imagine what the people at Wal-mart would say when Sarah uses her Senior Citizen card to get a discount on diapers!
God isn’t finished with us yet. No matter how young or old us are, no matter what we’ve done failed to do, no matter how experienced or inexperienced, God has something in store for us bigger than we can imagine. Surprise!