Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pioneer Woman

Books like Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz allow us to step back into an exciting time in our nation's history. Page by page, we journey alongside pioneers who cross rivers, scale mountains and plunge into the wilderness in search of a better life. Along the way they face perilous odds -- enduring harsh weather and primitive living conditions; risking illness and starvation; threatened with attack by man or beast. As readers, we hold our breath when dangers threaten and cheer when dreams come true.

When I read stories about our ancestors -- both real and imagined -- I admire their thirst for adventure and marvel at their indomitable spirit. But I must admit that on many levels I don't relate to them. When I consider the strength, courage and resourcefulness of pioneers, I feel so timid by comparison. Could I leave everything behind to explore new, undeveloped, uncivilized frontiers? I honestly don't know. Lush green woods surround our home, yet I rarely explore them on my own because I am so fearful of encountering a snake. When I read about America's early settlers, I wonder how many blessings I might have missed by staying in my comfort zone when an exciting world awaits discovery beyond the fence.

Scripture is filled with accounts of pioneers of a different sort -- men and women who risked everything to follow God. I find a heroine I can relate to in Sarah. Sarah's husband, Abraham, was the father of God's chosen people. Genesis 17:15-16 says, "Then God said to Abraham, 'As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.' "

In her book Struggle Seek Grow, Cynthia Dianne Guy talks about Sarah's journey of faith, noting that Sarah honored her husband's position by following him into a foreign land (Genesis 12:4-5). Cynthia quotes Lottie Beth Hobbs, who observed, "Together with her husband, Sarah accepted this unprecedented challenge to take a new step of faith and follow God into the unknown. She also had to leave friends and loved ones and familiar surroundings to face the perils and anxieties of an uncertain future."

Sarah is named in Faith's Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11:11, yet her spiritual struggles are chronicled in Genesis. As she waited for the fulfillment of God's promise, we see a woman who wrestled with mistrust, impatience and jealousy. In desperation, Sarah took matters into her own hands and gave her servant Hagar to Abraham -- a choice that ultimately put enmity between Hagar and Sarah. Later, when an angel told Abraham that his wife would bare a son, 90-year-old Sarah laughed at the improbability. Cynthia quotes Donald Guthrie, who noted, "It is perhaps surprising to find Sarah spoken of as an example of faith, for according to Genesis she was more conspicuous as an example of doubt."

Yet God was able to help Sarah's unbelief. Through her journey of faith, God was able to give Sarah a new name, a new home and a new role. In All of the Women of the Bible, Edith Deen surmised, "Sarah's life was one continuous trial of her faith in God's promise that she was to be a Mother of Nations. Through this trial she emerged as a woman of power, one who was a dutiful and beloved wife and who finally became a favored and venerated mother."

Today our great God leads lost, frightened sojourners out of the wilderness -- giving us a new name, a new home, and a new role. When we become Christians, God gives us a place in His kingdom and claims us as His children (Acts 2:37-41). Now that is a journey worth taking!

As a reader, I will continue to enjoy novels about early American settlers, knowing I can brew a cup of tea, snuggle into a favorite chair, and escape to a distant time and place. But when I open my Bible and meet spiritual pioneers like Sarah  -- an ordinary woman transformed by the power of God -- that's when I am compelled to get out of my chair and step out of my comfort zone, knowing God can tear down the fences of fear, doubt and uncertainty to reveal exciting new possibilities. And that is when the adventure truly begins.

"And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

Still to come, the announcement of our new book club selection!

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