Resenting My Own Mess
But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” Genesis 21:9-10
When in treatment for my opioid addiction, I resented being treated like a child, only being able to go outside or access my snack bin when I had permission. I needed to accept though, that I’d been acting like a child, impulsively doing whatever I wanted, with no thought to the consequences. Early in recovery, I resented that my wife and the rest of the world didn’t immediately accept that I was a changed man. I had to realize however, that I’d created this skepticism with 15 years of addiction and relapse, and that trust was going to take time. Nearly a year later, when the local newspaper finally printed the official story of my addiction, I felt resentment creeping in, but by that time, I’d figured it out. I did this. I have no one to resent or blame but myself.
In today’s passage, Sarah found herself in a somewhat similar situation. In the story, Sarah resented Ishmael, the son that her husband produced with Sarah’s servant, Hagar. Years before, God promised Abraham and Sarah offspring, but when it didn’t happen fast enough, Sarah took matters into her own hands, attempting to speed up God’s plan. She convinced Abraham to have sex with her servant Hagar, which produced Ishmael. Well, eventually God provided as Sarah and Abraham had their own son, Isaac. Once Isaac arrived, Sarah looked upon Ishmael with resentment and contempt. She wanted him gone.
I almost understand Sarah. Ishmael wasn’t hers. He was the product of a sexual relationship between her husband and another woman. Any woman would feel the same. The problem of course, is that this entire situation was manufactured by Sarah. She’s the one who orchestrated Ishmael’s existence and then had the audacity to resent him for being born.
Not all our trials are self-inflicted, but many of them are. In our resentments, we blame others, avoiding responsibility. The problem is that we can’t change anyone else. We’re responsible only for ourselves. If we blame our spouses for a lousy marriage, then yes, we can avoid the discomfort of personal transformation, but we’ll also never have a better marriage. In our trials, we must always ask, What’s my responsibility here? What does God want me to do with this? Our life trials may or may not be our fault, but resentment is never productive. We’re always responsible only for living rightly ourselves, which usually means abandoning our resentments.