“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” Brene Brown
“Insecure people want you to know how important they are; secure people want you to know how important you are; enlightened people want you to know how important everyone is.” Matshona Dhliwayo
Have you ever been around a woman who is extremely insecure? Their words don’t come out peacefully, they fidget, and can’t sit still. Their minds are full of worry and comparison. “Did I talk too much? Not enough? Was what I said dumb? Do they hate me now?” Or the opposite extreme can be true of insecurity, where a woman will come into a room, larger than life and all but demand that you see their awesomeness. Because maybe, if they over compensate, we won’t see what they’re desperately trying to hide. Both kinds of insecurity are heartbreaking to watch. But potentially even more heartbreaking to acknowledge in ourselves.
This week, we are going to see what it means to walk in Authentic Security. We’re going to look through the story of Abraham and Sarah, and Sarah’s reaction to God’s promise to her in Genesis 18.
“Where is Sarah, your wife?” the visitors asked. ‘She’s inside the tent,’ Abraham replied. Then one of them said, ‘I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!’ Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. So she laughed silently to herself and said, ‘How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?’ Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’ Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, ‘I didn’t laugh.’ But the Lord said, ‘No, you did laugh,’” (Genesis 18:9-15 NLT emphasis added).
I had absolutely no idea where to take this post. This story was black and white to me. I focused on the fact that she laughed at God and then lied about it. I wrote all kinds of reasons why her behavior was inappropriate. There was zero grace or mercy in my “righteous” stance. I’m so thankful that God changed that prideful train of thought because it would not have represented God’s heart. We all sin. We all of have questions, insecurities, and doubts. We all need His grace, mercy, and kindness.
My hubby came to me with a differing (better, kinder) opinion about this story. He asked me a series of challenging questions that brought me personal freedom. Could it be that Sarah’s laughter was a little bit deeper than just doubt?
Here is the first question my husband asked, “Why do you think God asked Abraham where his wife was? Obviously He knew where Sarah was.” Then he tied this story in with what God asked Adam in the garden, “Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9 NLT). Again, God obviously knew where Adam and Eve were. They were hiding because they sinned and were afraid. So why was Sarah hiding behind the tent?
Stay with me. There will be quite a bit of scripture, but I think it is important so that we can see a pattern in Abraham and Sarah’s relationship.
“10 At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. 11 As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, ‘Look, you are a very beautiful woman.12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ 13 So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”
14 And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone noticed Sarai’s beauty. 15 When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. 16 Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
17 But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. ‘What have you done to me?’ he demanded. ‘Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!’ 20 Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions,” (Genesis 12:10-20 NLT).
**Abram and Sarai are the same people as Abraham and Sarah. God changed their names later in Genesis 17 but I wanted to make sure that you knew we were talking about the same people.**
Abram hid his wife out of fear because she was exceptionally beautiful. Instead of claiming her as his own and protecting her, he was willing to offer her to complete strangers. Abraham was given elaborate gifts in exchange for his wife, basically prostituting her. God was not having it. He loved Sarai and defended her.
Then a few chapters later in Genesis 20, Abraham does this AGAIN! It’s almost an identical scenario: He lied to Abimelech by telling him that Sarah was his sister, Abraham prostituted her again, and God showed up to protect her. Abraham’s behavior did very little to establish Authentic Security in Sarah.
Then my husband asked an even deeper question. “Do you think that God was asking Abraham where Sarah was because He wanted her to have a seat at the table with them?” That stunned me and pieced my heart. Could she have sat and enjoyed the meal with God?
We often allow difficult situations, other people’s opinions, and the devil’s lies to determine our worth and value. We carry labels like badges of honor, and create identities around our brokenness. Here are some labels that could have been placed on Sarah:
- Sarah couldn’t have children. Disappointment.
- Sarah was “too” beautiful. Men couldn’t resist her. Threatening.
- Sarah’s own husband prostituted her in order to save his life. Unprotected.
- Sarah was “just” a woman. Unvalued.
Did she allow labels to keep her from her seat at the table with God? I would argue “yes”.
We just studied the story of Mary and Martha a couple of weeks ago. In Luke 10, Martha was cleaning the house, while Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha was following societal norms, while Mary was not. For Mary to sit at Jesus’ feet, meant that she was learning the Scriptures from Him as her rabbi (Hebrew for “teacher”). And it was illegal for a woman to learn the Scriptures. Martha got upset and commanded Jesus to make Mary help her. But thankfully, Jesus came to break societal norms.
Jesus, ever so graciously, told Martha that Mary had chosen the right thing and it would not be taken from her. That might sound like He was favoring Martha but, it was actually an invitation for Martha to find her seat at the table. This moment with Jesus is foreshadowed here in the story of Sarah. God was telling her the same thing He told Mary and Martha so many thousands of years later: “Woman, I see you and I hear you. Come and be with Me.”
I know in my own life that I have most certainly talked myself out of taking my seat at the table, because of labels I have adopted. Allowing these things to hold us back is the complete opposite of Authentic Security.
Finally, my hubby’s last and most painful question: “Do you feel like you are Sarah? That you have to hide behind the tent, straining to hear what’s going on because you don’t feel invited to the table?” Cue lots of tears! I didn’t know that I was feeling that but boy, he called it out and exposed it. I wept, he held me, it was a whole thing! Insecurity keeps us bound and missing out.
Authentic Security causes us to come out from behind the tent and join the dinner party. Healthy people are confident of their place at the table. They know that God has a seat for them. They are secure in who they are because they are listening to God and what He has to say about them. They can be authentic without fear because they know they are loved.
Getting back to our story in Genesis 18: Sarah laughed at God’s promise of a child. If you flip back one chapter to Genesis 17, you’ll see that Abraham had been told this promise by the Lord before, and his reaction was the same as Sarah’s. “Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100?’ he thought. ‘And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?’” (Genesis 17:17 NLT). They were way past an age where it would be possible for them to have a baby so, they both laughed in disbelief.
Here’s the absolute best part of this story:
“The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. And Sarah declared, ‘God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!’” (Genesis 21:1-7 NLT emphasis added).
God is so sweet and intentional with His people. He takes our mistakes, insecurities, and doubts and turns them into something beautiful for His glory. God told Abraham to name their miraculous child Isaac, which means “He will laugh” in Hebrew. Doesn’t that melt your heart?! This child’s identity literally redeemed the laughter that both Sarah and Abraham made in response to God’s promise. Now, instead of laughing out of disbelief, they would laugh in joy watching their miracle baby grow.
Sarah’s story started with disappointment and pain. Her husband lied about who she was and was willing to let other men have her to save himself. Her greatest desire was for a child, but her body couldn’t make it happen. Her life was hard, but God repeatedly came through for her, protected her, and invited her. He longed for her to know she could live in Authentic Security.
God is passionate about us walking in Authentic Security too. It’s an invitation to be real about what is going on in your life but also trust that God knows what He is doing. Our desires will be fulfilled in His timing. Today’s homework (below) walks us through my husband’s challenging questions. I pray that they bring you freedom too.
God created us and called it “good”. He does not know how to make mistakes. His desire is for His girls to be strong, confident, and sure of who they are. Knowing what their assignment is and full of God’s love, so that they can celebrate others around them. That is true Authentic Security.