Children of Promise, Children of Joy

Have you ever heard (or used) the expression “You’re treating me like a poor stepchild”?

Sometimes it is said in jest, but there is actually a lot of pain associated with it.  It means that somehow, for some unmerited reason, you are being treated as less than, unworthy, second rate – whatever words you might use to describe it. And it hurts – it hurts deeply.

Read the passage of scripture in Genesis 21 and you will learn about what it means to be “child of promise” and a “child of joy” (Isaac) and you will also learn about what it means to be treated like an outcast, a bother, a pain, something or someone to forget (Ishmael).

It’s a tale that shows Abraham and Sarah at their best – and most blessed – and at their worst.

God, not surprisingly, acts in love and grace toward them all – Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Hagar, Ishmael – for they are all His children.  Just like us.

I take from this story of promise a great message of hope.  I take from it the affirmation that for all our strengths and weaknesses, all our faith and doubt, all our goodness and all our tendency to sin – God has set in a motion the process by which we can be children of promise and hope and that brings joy and laughter.

Isaac – the name – means “laughter.”

But it isn’t the laughter of cynicism or doubt.  It is the laughter of pure joy, of promised blessing fulfilled.  And even Hagar and Ishmael, though cast out due to jealousy, become the recipients of hope and God’s love.

Believe in it – believe that you are not – you are never – God’s “poor stepchild.”

You are God’s beloved.

That should bring a smile to your face.  You might even find yourself laughing – in pure joy.

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. “Elpis” is the Greek word for “expectant hope.” He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and a member of Spiritual Directors International. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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