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.