In this age of disposables and instants, relationships tend to also get into this mode. Younger generations seem to go from one relationship to another before settling down. Many choose to cohabit without the benefits of marriage either because they do not believe in marriage or do not want to be tied to one when the going gets tough. But in our depths, however, there is that longing to be loved and to love for a lifetime. With disposable relationships, many lose out on the growth and maturing of love that has weathered the storms and doubled the joys through the years of staying committed to one.
So for this love month, let us look at some couples we could learn from. We have encountered a not-so-good side of Abraham and Sarah in last week’s article, but there are also redeeming qualities to their relationship as husband and wife. Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister from the same father, a common practice in their day to preserve family bloodlines.
Sarah’s former name, Sarai, means “princess” and she was described as very beautiful (Gen. 12:11, 14) that she was recommended to Egypt’s Pharaoh by his men. She was childless, however, for the most part of her life. They migrated from Ur to Haran with their father Terah and cousin Lot and lived there for many years and accumulated wealth, before God told Abraham, at 75 years of age, to move to Canaan (Gen. 11:27-12:3).
There are at least three lessons we could learn from this couple’s love and life story that made them stick with one another for a lifetime. First, they mutually submitted to each other and supported each other’s preferences and decisions. Sarah went along with Abraham’s decision to move several times from Ur to Haran to Canaan to Egypt when there was famine, then back to Canaan with accumulated livestock and silver and gold, before they finally settled in one place. For one used to comfort such as Sarah, the moves might have been unbearable. Uprooting oneself and moving, not by trucks and haulers, but by feet and camels with so much property and to do it several times over deserts and lands was a huge inconvenience! Yet Sarah supported those decisions. Abraham also went along with Sarah’s suggestion to sire a child through her maid since she was barren and childless, another common practice. He also gave in to Sarah’s suggestion to send the maid and his son Ishmael away when Sarah had Isaac, even if it was hard to release the son he had grown to love. They considered each other’s wishes and supported each other through the consequences of those decisions.
Second, the couple chose to obey God and trust him despite the uncertainties and difficulties. They came from idolatrous families and places, Ur and Haran, yet God started to reveal himself to Abraham and Sarah as he wanted to start a nation through them. In different occasions, they decided on what they knew as solutions or plan B’s that eventually became problematic, yet God was patient with them and still fulfilled his promises to them. They had to learn the hard lessons of trusting God and that God has his perfect time and ways, until they grew confident of him to even be willing to sacrifice their comfort or what was precious to them (like Isaac). The reason? They have learned by experience what God was like – faithful, true, good. With life’s many uncertainties and challenges, no marriage will last without getting anchored on God and the guidance and hope he gives.
Third, they remained faithful to each other despite the temptations and challenges. Having a beautiful wife, though considered very old by our standards, made Abraham feel endangered in foreign territories where Egypt’s Pharaoh and Gerar’s king could get any woman they desired. So for self-protection, Abraham requested his wife to say he is her brother (half-truth) in both places. For Sarah, the temptation to become one of Pharaoh’s or king’s wives and stay put in a palace instead of wandering in the desert could be real. But her love to protect Abraham made her go along with his schemes. Abraham, for his part, could have chosen to have two wives and let Hagar, Sarah’s maid to stay. But he chose his real wife, the one who had sacrificed and stayed with him through thick and thin and sent to other one away. They both chose to be loyal to one another.
There is no doubt Abraham and Sarah loved each other. But relationships that last also make choices to make one’s spouse become one’s companion and best friend, loyal to the end, through the uncertainties and challenges of life’s journey.