Not Too Wonderful

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Note: I do see the total irony of blogging about a social media fast.

This weekend, I am doing a social media fast. Clearly, I’ll have to do this way more often because it’s effective. From Friday at 11:59 p.m. to Sunday at 11:59 p.m., I am not using any apps on my phone or website on my computer that I feel compulsion to check regularly, including Facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. I am still using technology, and will reply to texts, phone calls, and even snapchats sent directly to me. This isn’t a full technology fast. What I aim to block out is the white noise that I find myself so occupied by recently.

This social media fast has been extremely successful, so far. I actually really like not feeling an urge to check a newsfeed. I’ve only had one accident. I cleaned out my closet yesterday and was looking for a charity to donate to. When I clicked a link, it went to a Facebook page, instead of a traditional website. That’s it! Just one accident – and I found a place to donate clothing locally. Little harm.

However, when I started to get ready for bed tonight, I yearned to open Instagram. I don’t know why. Just Instagram. Just for a minute. I had my phone in my hard and almost convinced myself that just once wouldn’t really be cheating. I didn’t really have a reason to fast this weekend, but as usual, God did. As I sat on my bed thinking about how vital it is for me to be constantly connected, it occurred to me that I hadn’t read my Bible in days. I quickly prayed for God to fill the time I would have used with media with time with Him instead. Again, God prevailed: She Reads Truth (www.shereadstruth.com) featured Genesis 17:1-18:15 today and WOW is that what I needed. The reading focuses on Abraham listening to God’s call, even though he does not know where God is leading him. This is such an important message, and I am so glad that my little fasting experiment led me there. However, it was a different figure that caught my attention and now I can’t stop thinking about the way that there is hope in God and how he never ceases to be good.

Sarah is not a figure of the Bible I spend much time thinking about. I like her because we share the same name and I admire that she was clearly chosen by God. I think it’s cool to have a biblical namesake that was very literally named by God (Genesis 17:15), so thanks to my parents for that one. I am fascinated by women of the Old Testament (as you likely know), so I’m not sure how Sarah has slipped through my study.

In this passage, Abraham is a Good Jew. He is appropriately shocked when God appears to him (Genesis 17:3; 17:17), and offers him the best of what he has (Genesis 18). Sarah, surely, is a Good Jew, as well. She seems dutiful and obedient and God-loving. She has is barren and accepts this. But Sarah is not without spunk. When God tells Abraham and Sarah that Sarah will become pregnant with a son, Sarah laughs. She is not being rude, just incredulous with doubt. God hears and tells Abraham, “Is anything to wonderful for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Sarah denies laughing, but God knows otherwise. Though nothing is too wonderful for the Lord, some things seem impossible.

I am like Sarah, most of the time. I fail to see the possibility in God. I forget that nothing is too wonderful for the Lord. My plans are small and safe. His plans are big and perfect. How much do we follow Sarah’s lead? Sarah denies her doubt when God questions her. I am like Sarah. I doubt and then deny my doubt. God sees through all of it and brings wonder anyway.

If you have spoken to me in the past two years, you will probably know that chronic migraines dominated my first two years of college. I don’t write about it often because honestly, I’m sick of talking about it. For two years, it felt like every day was longer than the prior and the nails that seemed to be floating around in my head could never come free. I tried medication after medication. I tried acupuncture, I tried yoga. I tried eating dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free. I tried therapy. I tried everything. Nothing worked. I went to class and did my homework and took an incredible amount of ibuprofen in hope that it would help *just this once* (it didn’t). Every time someone told me they knew the cure to migraines, I laughed internally. I covered this with a polite response, but really just laughed. I wanted to tell everyone, “I’m not going to get better! This is how it is! I have migraines! STOP TRYING.” An attitude of resignation is not healthy or happy but it does eliminate the emotional stress of chronic pain. I’m all about eliminating emotional stress.

Sarah spent over ninety years living with the fact that she was barren. In a world where a woman’s ability to carry a baby is everything, not much could have been more devastating. Hagar, her slave, bore a child with her husband with her consent, simply so Abraham could have some descendants. Sarah was a woman but not really, because she lacked the biological ability that defined womanhood at the time. I can not begin to imagine the pain of living in a world that invalidates your presence simply because of the way your body acts.

Though I can’t imagine the pain that is to live ninety-some years and know that I will never have a child, I think that maybe I tasted a little of the resignation that Sarah felt. Sarah knew she’d never have a child. I knew that my head was going to hurt. Thus was life – sometimes circumstances are hard but life is good anyway. Sarah could bear no children but was still faithful. I whine a lot but feebly try my best to be faithful.

But Sarah encountered God in the flesh and saw His greatness applied to her life when he appeared to Mamre and declared that she would have a child. Sarah laughed to herself, then told God that she had not. Were I in Sarah’s place, if God Himself had appeared to me in a village and told me that one day, a year from now, all my migraines would be gone, I am sure I would have responded with anger or spite – far worse than a laugh. When it feels like God has forgotten you, it is hard to believe that there is any goodness. God doesn’t forget, though – “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” God asks Abraham and Sarah. This is the part that I forget all too often.

It’s the last line of the passage that I find most exciting. When Sarah denies her laughter, God says, “Oh yes, you did laugh” (Genesis 18:15). God does not call her a liar. He does not make a joke. He does not respond in anger, but also does not respond in sympathy. “Oh yes, you did laugh.” God does not make a judgement on Sarah. He knows that she doubts him, that she is frustrated, that perhaps she feels like she has been forgotten, but he does not condemn her. He also does not shower her with superficial blessings to make up for her pain. God provides but does not judge. We laugh because all seems impossible but God tolerates – loves, even – us still.  I deny my doubt every time I comment on the gloriousness of the Father but fail to see the ways in which He chooses me personally over and over and over again. Even though I doubt. Even though I laugh.

It is interesting to be reminded that God knows everything I do and am. God knows when I don’t study enough for a test. God knows when I tell a lie. God sees the best of me but He also sees the worst, and he loves me regardless. He sees that Sarah doubts Him but gives her a child anyway. God sees that I am a whole slew of negative things and gives me relief from migraines anyway. It is important that God does not always bestow the blessings we think we need: Sarah did not get a baby when she was young. God calls her and her husband to travel to a far off land and live in totally foreign circumstances. I cannot claim to understand how God works but I can find peace in the fact that nothing is too wonderful for Him. God did not give me a magic pill but He did give me a new, corrected diagnosis and a great physical therapist. Nothing is perfect but it’s all more wonderful than I can imagine.

I started this weekend aiming to spend more time being present and less time worrying about everyone else. I ended this weekend reflecting on how God sees me checking Facebook and complaining about little things and provides for me regardless. There’s certainly some lessons there. Here’s what I’m looking for in the coming weeks: assurance in God’s goodness. Knowledge that nothing is too wonderful for my Lord and that this is often much better than I could ever dream. Probably more social media fasts. Definitely more social media fasts.

P.S. – this was posted the day after it was written, so don’t worry, no cheating. 🙂

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