I just read a book I highly recommend all women read. Whether you call yourself a feminist, a conservative, mom, wife, daughter, young professional–this is a message we women need to hear. It’s called “Without Rival: Embrace your identity and purpose in an age of comparison.” Talk about a title that pulls you in!
I’ve been writing a lot about comparison lately, and it seems as though the books I “happen to pick up” address living without comparison for an Audience of One. I’m so thankful for women like Lisa Bevere who boldly and beautifully speak the word of God, saying things that are really had for me to hear.
“God uniquely created your DNA and knit your frame in secret so he could surprise the world. He authored how your heart expresses itself; he was the architect of your smile and the melody of your voice; he made all your featured with the fondest thoughts of you only in mind…Because of this tender, intentional care, there are multiple facets of your life that express and reflect his love uniquely. He wove all these exceptional aspecs and specific talent into the package of you, his daughter. He knew each attribute would be expressed best through your feminine form. He knew you would represent and relate to him best as a daughter. This is the very reason he chose female for your gender. There is a very special bond between fathers and daughters. He didn’t have another daughter in mind when he fashioned you– you are his delight.
What precious, priceless words! In a world where I am constantly tempted to compare my hair, my jean size, my eye color, my weight, my relationship status, my location, my level of education….the list goes ON!! In this world there is one Sarah Dasha Taylor and God gave me a voice — a female voice–and he wants me to use it and realize I have no rival except that which I create for myself?
Do you struggle with comparison? Have you ever asked God why something is happening for someone else and not for you? Have you tried to rush the promises of God over your life, thinking God has forgotten you so you better fend for yourself?
I have this dream. It’s a crazy dream. It’s so crazy I’m not even going to write it down here. It’s an impossible dream. Well. Almost impossible. I could sort of make it happen on my own right now, and often I am tempted to jump into action and “hustle.” Sometimes people tell me if I want something I should make it happen now! I’m an independent woman and I don’t need anyone!
There’s a woman in the Bible who tried to bring about the dream in her own power. Her name was Sarah, and more than anything, she wanted a child, but she was old and her body was unable to carry a child, so she assumed God was finished with her, so she asked her maid to sleep with her husband and give her husband a son. And sure enough, the maid, Hagar, conceived and bore a son–Ishmael.
It was after Ishmael was born that God confirmed with Abraham that Sarah would bear a son with whom God would establish his covenant, a son born through impossibility, born only through faith. Abraham told God he already had a son, but as Lisa Bevere powerfully notes, “Ishmael was the son of a bondwoman, bound to the realm of striving and flesh. The promise without rival would have to come through a sign and wonder without precedent.”
Wow. God wants to establish a covenant with us and do the impossible through us and we are content to live in the realm of striving and “just ok.” Ishmael means “God listens” and I believe his name means that because God does listen and and he recognizes our broken pleas and if we push hard enough and force the door down, maybe we can actually get what we think we want.
But Isaac means “laughter.” God laughs in the face of impossibility, of barrenness, of singleness, of not enough money, of loneliness, of lack, of dreams not yet realized and He invites us to lean in and trust him like never before. And wait. Wait, trust, believe God can and wants to do the impossible in and through you.
Sarah laughed at God and I can imagine her jaded heart was almost mad at God for playing with her emotions like that. Ishmael was 13 at this time, and now more than ever it looked like it was too late. But God was determined to work through her, despite her cynicism and lack of trust. At last, she believed, and it came to pass-Isaac was born.
I don’t want to settle in this life. I don’t want a second best, okay, mediocre, acceptable destiny. I want to see God do the impossible in the earth and in me. I don’t want to go through the pain of striving for what I want and then grow bitter when I look at the Ishmael I’ve erected in my life from my own lack of trust.
But this requires waiting. Be a woman who waits. Don’t lose hope for the husband you know God has promised you and settle for something that looks close enough to the real thing to get by. Don’t rush the dream you have and make the big move, only to end up in a never ending cycle of striving because if you had to strive to get it, you’ll have to strive to keep it.
I know it’s hard, believe you me!! But it’s so worth it and so rare. Not many women have the courage to say no to what is almost right. But a few do, and they become mothers of nations. They are entrusted with lives because they have learned their strength is in God, the one whose promises are yes and amen.
I think God has us wait so we know beyond the shadow of a doubt it’s Him. Our hope is Jesus. Our reward is Jesus. It’s not the thing we are seeking anymore. It’s Jesus. He’s the prize. It’s all for him.
And as we wait, God does something incredible! He redeems all our years of unbelief and discouragement!
Tell me now, you who have become so enamored with the law: Have you paid close attention to that law? Abraham, remember, had two sons: one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. The son of the slave woman was born by human connivance; the son of the free woman was born by God’s promise. This illustrates the very thing we are dealing with now. The two births represent two ways of being in relationship with God. One is from Mount Sinai in Arabia. It corresponds with what is now going on in Jerusalem—a slave life, producing slaves as offspring. This is the way of Hagar. In contrast to that, there is an invisible Jerusalem, a free Jerusalem, and she is our mother—this is the way of Sarah. Remember what Isaiah wrote:
Rejoice, barren woman who bears no children,
shout and cry out, woman who has no birth pangs,
Because the children of the barren woman
now surpass the children of the chosen woman.
Isn’t it clear, friends, that you, like Isaac, are children of promise? In the days of Hagar and Sarah, the child who came from faithless connivance (Ishmael) harassed the child who came—empowered by the Spirit—from the faithful promise (Isaac). Isn’t it clear that the harassment you are now experiencing from the Jerusalem heretics follows that old pattern? There is a Scripture that tells us what to do: “Expel the slave mother with her son, for the slave son will not inherit with the free son.” Isn’t that conclusive? We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
We are children of the free woman–the mother of nations–Sarah-princess of God. Sarah is not remembered for her mistakes, she is remembered for her faith! This means that we too, as we surrender to God’s perfect timing, can be remembered for our faith, not our mocking laughter and striving. What a gift.