Ripples in Time

Posted by Jenny on May 18, 2014 in Homilies |

What difference can one person make? What difference do you make in your family, your workplace or in the world?

In the Power of One, Bryce Courtney weaves a story about a small boy, PK who through his hope, courage, refusal to accept injustice, and his acceptance of those different from himself, makes a difference in the midst of an unjust society.

Mother Teresa was a small,  uneducated single woman who through determination and faith made a difference in the multitudinous needs of India. Her faith, courage and dedication have influenced many throughout the world.

Over four thousand years ago, the faith and obedience of a childless couple continues to influence our world. God promises Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would become a great nation and through this nation the whole world would be blessed. (Genesis 12:2-3;13:14-17;15:1-22; 17:1-22).

Unlikely choice

We all know Abraham and Sarah were heroes of the faith not ordinary people like us. Yet, if we look closer, we can see that for many reasons this couple was an unlikely choice.

They came from a family of idol worshippers (Joshua 24:2). But more than that, both Sarah and Abraham were people with normal human frailties – fear, dishonesty, doubt, complaisance – which constantly places God’s plan in jeopardy. At times their faith is stretched to the limit. They attempt to bring about God’s promise through their own plans – adopting an heir or through surrogacy. But God says “No! This is not my plan. In my time, Sarah will have a baby and through that baby she will be the mother of the nation through whom the whole world will be blessed.” God works through this couple, challenging and changing them, despite their flaws and their moments of doubt.

One obstacle in particular seems insurmountable. Sarah, we are told, was old (way past menopause) and barren. This was a couple who had struggled with infertility for years and years – for decades – who had hoped until that hope had grown old, shrivelled up and died. Why would God choose them? Yet God promises that they would not just have a child but descendants as numerous as the grains of sands of the wide, barren Sahara desert – of all the deserts and beaches of the world.

It is because God called Abraham and Sarah, that God calls us. He wants us to be part of His plans. We may think we are not qualified but God isn’t interested in finding qualified people. We know we are flawed but it is God who renews and transforms us. He takes unqualified flawed people – people with impediments, with past mistakes and character faults – and qualifies them for His work of blessing the world.

Unexpected Delays

And that’s the end of the story, right? God calls Abraham and Sarah, promises them a child and, on arrival in the new land, Sarah has a baby and God’s promises are fulfilled. After all, if God has promised to bless us and minster through us – if He has a plan and is in charge of executing it – then there should be no impediments to the immediate fulfilment of his plan – right?

Wrong! Throughout Abraham and Sarah’s story there is ongoing tension and suspense. They remain aliens in the land God has promised them. There are ongoing threats to their safety and prosperity. Almost immediately there is a drought and they find themselves in Egypt fielding off the Pharaoh’s unwelcome attentions. There is conflict with the inhabitants of the land and conflict within the family.

But the biggest disappointment is that year after year goes by and there is still no child. The fulfilment of the promises – especially that of a son – don’t seem humanly possible, so both Abraham and Sarah start trying alternative plans, to make God’s promise work. Each time, they bring about more problems than they solve.

In fact, they are often the biggest impediment to God’s plan.

Why does God delay? We live in a society that values instant results. We don’t like waiting. We speed through life in an effort to get to our destinations as fast as possible, cutting corners, taking unnecessary risks – and all the time taking little notice of the country we travel through.

Perhaps God builds in delays because he as interested in how we make the journey and the type of people we are becoming as much as in arriving at our destination. We, like Sarah and Abraham, have to come to the end of our own resources and to learn to trust God completely.

And then, God brings about the impossible. God says – this time next year you will be holding a baby in your arms. And what causes Sarah to laugh because it seems beyond credibility – becomes the source of joyous laughter, as Isaac at last is born.

Unlimited Potential

Both Abraham and Sarah see God do the miraculous – they are given a son when all hope has been lost. Yet at the end of their life, God’s grand promises are only partially fulfilled – they are still aliens in the land of promise, they own a burial plot and are still a small family. By the end of Abraham and Sarah’s life so few of God’s promises had been made concrete.

Yet as the story of God’s people continues to unfold throughout the Old and New Testaments, God brings about His promises in ever widening circles. Isaac’s, son Jacob becomes Israel, Jacob’s descendants become God’s promised people who centuries later take possession of the promised land and through this small nation millennia later, Jesus the Messiah is born.

It is in Jesus that the promises are fully fulfilled. It is through Jesus that all the families on the earth – every tribe, people, language and ethnic group can now become part of God’s family. Sarah and Abraham’s spiritual descendants now number in the billions – and we can now be part of God’s plans.

Throw a pebble into a pond it may at first seem to sink to the bottom without trace. But the pebble causes small ripples to expand across the surface of the pond in ever widening circles.

The fact is that we all make a difference – whether for good or for bad. But the kind of difference we make doesn’t depends on positive thinking or on hard work and virtuous effort. Abraham and Sarah made a difference because they responded in faith to God’s promises.

It is not our smallness, or human frailty or even our mistakes that count. Nor is it our strength, our abilities and talents, even the strength of our faith that counts. What counts is God – God who works in and through us when we trust him, God who knows the plans he has for us, who knows the right times and the necessary trials – God whose plans will never fail, though they may take longer than we expect.

Like a pebble in a pond, let’s allow God to work through us. Let’s surrender our lives, our plans, our hopes and fears, our inadequacies, – even our lack of results, our failures – to him and continue respond in faith and obedience to His promises.

Jeanette O’Hagan

Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series.  She is actively involved in a caring Christian community. You can find her at JennysThread.com and

Another article by Jeanette In the Lion’s Den

Photo by Jeanette O’Hagan All Rights Reserved.

First published as a guest blog in Golden Pen for Christian Women on 8 December 2014

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  • Lyn Thiele says:

    So true, Jenny. How often have I thought God is so s…l…o…w at fulfilling His promises. How can he bear to wait around when the world is becoming a minefield of terror and sadness? As I read your piece, I thought of Sarah and wondered how I would feel, at my age of 75, if God asked me to physically bear a child for him to use in this world. What a woman she must have been, so much older than I am! Now I realise that we all have ‘babies’ to carry and they are only valuable if they’re given to God to use.

  • Jenny says:

    Hi Lyn
    Thanks for your comment. And yes, it’s hard at times waiting for God’s timing yet even when things look grim, God has the situation in His hands. I like what you say about us all having ‘babies’ to carry – and while this comes with responsibilities, it also comes with great joy and hope for the future. Sarah was a strong woman of faith, an example of follow.

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