This last week I didn’t write any posts. I simply needed some time to pause, breathe, and be present to those around me. I felt restored and ready to write something new when I returned to Genesis this week; yet, when I opened to Genesis 20, I realized we weren’t in new territory at all.
Genesis 20 opens with Abraham and Sarah traveling to yet another location. As I read the text, I realized that they really haven’t paused much so far — in each chapter they’re working and living, and then moving to another land. In this particular instance they move to Gerar, and happen to make the exact same mistake they made in Genesis 12.
In When Our Heroes Let Us Down, we discussed the decision Abram made to abandon Sarai to Pharaoh in Gen. 12, insisting that she was his sister. God became very upset by that whole scenario, informed Pharaoh about what had happened, and Abram and Sarai left the land richer than ever. Abram acted in a way that felt disappointing, and we talked about what it means for those we love and admire to fall short of our expectations.
Here’s the bigger issue: today we watch Abraham make the exact same mistake, simply in a different household. Abraham lies to Abimelech this time, claiming that Sarah is his sister. So Abimelech takes Sarah into his household, and God appears to him to inform him that Sarah is, in fact, Abraham’s wife. Abimelech then confronts Abraham, gives Sarah back, and Abraham and Sarah leave the land richer than ever.
It’s odd to read Genesis 12 and Genesis 20 right next to each other. They really do feel like mirror images of the same mistake. God had to intervene on both accounts to inform the leader of the truth about their relationship and to rescue Sarah. Abraham’s willingness to commit this sin a second time is what really gets to me.
I wonder if their continued moving from place to place may have influenced the events of Genesis 20. At least for me, when I start moving quickly and forgetting to pause, I rely heavily on routine. It takes time to evaluate our decisions and make new ones, so if we’re in a hurry it becomes easy to simply do what we’ve done before. I’ve had certain phases of my life where I eat almost the same thing every day, simply because it would take time and energy to decide on something different.
Abraham’s situation is rather extreme. I would hope that Abraham would have taken the time to realize how much his decision hurt God and his wife in Genesis 12, but we have little evidence that he did. He chose to take the exact same route in the heat of the moment, and little to our surprise, he faced the exact same outcome.
We need to take time to pause. To reflect on the decisions we make everyday. None of us are perfect, and it can be tempting to choose the routes that are easiest and most familiar, all the while making life harder on God, those around us, and ourselves. Let’s take the time to identify one thing today that we can do or change that will bring greater peace and life to those around us. And in the end, may we find permission and space to pause.