Making an Ishmael

Have you ever had a dream that was moving too slowly? Have you ever had plans that were not turning out? Have you ever found yourself going a direction in life that you never imagined and you “know” it must be the wrong direction?

If you are anything like me, these are the moments that the temptation to cut corners, cheat the system or just take matters into my own hands is the greatest! If I was to be completely transparent, my first marriage was the result of this mindset. I decided that it was taking too long for marriage to happen, so I stopped waiting and moved forward in a reckless manner. It is so very dangerous to not slow down, wait on the Lord and allow His plans to play out.

In the book of Genesis, Abraham is given a promise that he will be the father of nations and that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky. This was a powerful promise filled with hope and joy and expectation. However, there was one major hitch – Abraham was approaching ninety years old and had no children. So, he took matters into his own hands, slept with the maidservant of his wife, and had a son, Ishmael. You can read the story in chapters 15-20, but the summary is that Ishmael was not the child of God’s promise, that conflict arose between him and Isaac (the intended child of God’s promise), and that conflict not only fractured Abraham’s family, but the descendants of the two boys continue to be at war today.

So, what is it that drives us to make our own “Ishmael” when life doesn’t go the way that we expect? Why am I unable to read about the life of Abraham and avoid the same traps of impatience and control?

Here are three things that I wrestle with when tempted to make an Ishmael:

First, I lack unwavering faith in God. It is so much easier to trust God and follow His plan when things are going my way. However, it is both the storms of life and the adversity of circumstances that reveal just how deeply rooted my faith is. Am I more like Abraham who changed the story, or like Jesus who slept in the middle of the storm? I need to live in such a way that the storms of life drive me to God instead of to my own means of avoiding the storms. 

Second, I am admittedly impatient. I often joke that God is always late in my life. Upon retrospect, I know that His timing is perfect and it is myself who is unable to wait for the right moment. Traffic drives me crazy because I am forced to wait. One person in front of me in line is too many and I even find myself refreshing my Twitter feed manually if I am feeling especially impatient. Please don’t leave me hanging that I am the only one who struggles with this! The problem is how often my impatience short circuits what God has planned for me. 

Third, I like things done my way and struggle to relinquish control. Deep down, I believe that I am right, that my way is the best way, and my timing is impeccable. I rarely say this, but my actions reveal that I like to be in charge. IF the ship is going to sink, I want it to at least sink on my terms! This is not only a poor way to live, but it is exhausting and exasperating. 

In spite of myself, God’s grace overcomes my inability to trust Him with all of my heart, my lack of patience and my control issues. While I spend a great deal of time making my own Ishmaels, God continues to love and bless and encourage me. And as I look at the story of Ishmael, in spite of Abraham’s shortcomings, Ishamael received the blessings and promises of God in his own life. 

So, how about you? Do you find yourself making Ishmaels and, if so, what drives you to this? Regardless of the reason, remember that God knows, God sees and God loves. He can even turn your Ishmael into the greatest blessing of your life. While I would never recommend pursuing the creation of an Ishamael, remember that He is the God of redemption and that your “Isaac” is just a step of faith away. My first marriage (one of my biggest Ishmaels) gave me the gift of my children and for that I am eternally grateful. 


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