Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Lent 5: Sarai
When I was twenty-nine years old and the mother of a beautiful, rambunctious toddler, my (then) husband received a call (by which I mean, a very nice offer from a particular university that wanted him to come into their Ph. D. program), to leave his country and kindred and the house on Linden Street, to travel to a new land (by which I mean, to leave the Boston area, where all our friends were, to move to Binghamton, where we knew no one). And so he did. He left that little Cape Cod house near the commuter rail that had carried him to a law firm for three years, and traveled along I-90 and then I-88 to the little city that would be his home for the next twenty (or so). And I, his wife, went with him.
When Sarai was sixty-five years old and the mother of no one, her husband got the same basic call. The up! Get up! And go! call. I remember, at twenty-nine, being excited. Even though people and a city (all of whom I still love) were being left behind, it was an adventure!
I'm not sure how I'd feel about getting that call at age sixty-five.
Scripture is absolutely silent as to Sarai's opinion on the whole thing, even though-- Oh, I forgot to mention this-- God tells Abram that he will be given three things: land, children, and blessing. Presumably, Sarai is intimately involved in the children part. Presumably.
Ages are funny in scripture. In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, the ages given for the biblical characters are mythic... Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years. Enoch lived three hundred and seventy-five. Noah, nine hundred fifty (he was a spry six hundred when he built the ark).
By the time we reach the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs, the ages begin to sound more reasonable, though still heroic. The question is, what does sixty-five or seventy-five mean? The same as it does to us? Probably not, but these ages do signify that what is being asked of this couple is exceptional, and unusual. These two who get up! and go! without hesitation, even by this simple, first measure, earn their status as memorable figures in the biblical story.
But what did Sarai think of it all? Was it an adventure to her? Was she weary with age? Or was 65 the old 35, in this still pretty mythic age?
What did Sarai think?