Faithful Obedience makes a Great Father
At our last FOSJ meeting we discussed Abraham’s crisis and how he faithfully persevered, believing in the unseen promise that God would provide an heir despite the seen obstacle of Sarah’s infertility. As with Abraham, our response to such crises is the litmus test for our faithfulness to God. Truly, our response determines our own greatness, and in a way, influences our children’s future. To consistently endure crises we must have “obedience of faith.” Faithful obedience to God, particularly under crisis, is a key attribute of a faithful father, a man who is capable of leading his family to sanctity, holiness, and glory. Each of us is called by God to be icons of the heavenly Father. Satan’s strategy is to lure us into disobedience to the Father and thus lead our children away from the Father. For if we are disobedient how can we expect our children to be obedient.
Human Solutions to Divine problems
Despite Sarah’s infertility, and God’s promise to him that his own son should be his heir, Abraham remained faithful to God for decades. However, Sarah’s faith eventually weakened, tempting her to seek a human solution to her infertility. One of Satan’s most effective tactics is to tempt us to disobey God, particularly via the women we love. Adam was tempted to disobedience by Eve; Jacob by his mother Rachel; Samson by Delilah; Solomon by his 700 wives, and 300 concubines, who turned his heart to foreign gods. Sarah’s solution to her infertility was to tempt Abraham to have sexual relations with Hagar, her slave woman. Sarah lost patience with God and his promises, compromised her faith in Him, and sought a human solution to a divine problem. In fact, Sarah’s words prove that she did this in spite of God: “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Gen 16: 1-2) Sarah realized that the Lord, “had prevented her” from bearing children, and second, that her directive to Abraham was not of divine origin, that is, it was not inspired, but rather mere human speculation: “it may be that I obtain children by her.” God was using this crisis to teach Abraham and Sarah valuable lessons, but to learn these lessons demanded patience, faith and trust in God. God uses a crisis to teach us also, but we must remain trustful, obedient and patient in order to learn how to become the man, the father we are called to be.
Fleeing to Slavery
We know the rest of the story. He accepted her invitation. Sarah’s weakened faith led to Abraham compromising his faith. Though Sarah believed that Abraham’s intercourse with Hagar would be a remedy for her problem, it instead increased their dilemmas. The name Hagar means “to flee.” Sarah lured Abraham into fleeing from God’s will and into the embrace of Hagar. By fleeing from God’s will, Abraham’s marriage became divided. By handing her husband over to her slave, Sarah submitted herself and her husband to the slavery of man’s passions and lust; to the using of another human being as an object. Sarah used Hagar as an object of production, attempting to extract a child from her. Sarah also used her husband, asserting her right to use Abraham and Hagar to obtain a child. This account is highly symbolic and meaningful for us today. Sarah’s emotional reaction to their marital crisis weakened Abraham’s prudential judgement, moving him from freedom of faith to a disposition of slavery. Abram handed himself over to the slave woman, which is symbolic of the slavery to the flesh. By submitting to Sarah’s lust for children, Abraham submitted to lusting for the slave woman.
Division and Dissension
What are the consequences of making decisions based on emotions and subjective feelings, rather than basing our decisions upon God’s law of self-giving love? In Abraham’s case, the act of intercourse lacked divine grace and rather than uniting his marriage, it caused great division and dissension. Indeed, Hagar conceived, and in doing so, became contemptuous of Abraham. Abraham failed to protect the dignity of Hagar, handing her over to the vengeful Sarah who beat her. What a mess. By submitting to the slavery of the flesh, that is our disordered passions, using our emotions and subjective feelings as the basis for solving our problems, we become bound by the division that lust can cause. Lust spawns division and division spawns lust. How we respond to our crises, marital and sexual dilemmas, sets the trajectory for our fatherly vocation. A husband will be tremendously disappointed with his marriage if he submits to the slavery of the flesh and allows the ways of lust and temptation to determine his solutions. However, if we hold fast, with faith and trust in God, remaining obedient to His teachings, we will become men of glory, who pass on such glory to our children.
Identifying Real Love
We live in the “Age of Deception,” where worldly ambitions, fame and comforts are offered as goals to which we are entitled. The world says, “you can have whatever you want”, “You can be whatever you want”, “those challenges and struggles are keeping you from achieving these things.” “Comfort is king, and you should be king of your comfort.” In this Age of Deception, fathers are being shot down by Satan, duped into believing, like Sarah and Abraham, that man’s ways are better than God’s ways. Abraham sought to ease Sarah’s pain. Yet seeking an easier solution to the painful dilemma of infertility, he caused even more pain to Sarah, himself, Hagar, and later the product of Hagar and Abraham’s sexual union – Ishmael. The pains caused by resorting to ungodly means to solve our dilemmas are far greater than the sacrifice demanded by a godly solution. Such human solutions may include pornography, affairs, masturbation and contraception. God, however, created marital sex to be incredibly bonding – a means to unite two partners for life. Scientific research demonstrates that during sexual intercourse, chemicals such as oxytocin and vasopressin are released into the body creating a physical bond between partners. Advanced brain scanning technology demonstrates that romantic love stimulates three parts of the brain, causing couples to stay together, to take care of one another and long for each other. In other words, God means what He says when He says that the two will become one flesh. Promiscuous sex and pornography, on the other hand, actually impede lovers’ abilities to bond with their partners. Break-ups actually trigger the same pain centers of the brain that light up when a person suffers physical trauma. Contraception has been scientifically proven to actually impede the physiological bonding process between couples. Perhaps that is why couples who practice NFP have a divorce rate of 5% compared to a 50% divorce rate among couples who use contraception. Also, following birth of offspring, males experience up to a 30% reduction in testosterone, as well as elevated levels of cortisol and prolactin, which enable men to be more mature, alert, experience greater connectivity in the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for problem solving and managing emotional stress. God wants us to have sex and have children because it makes us men of glory. Recall the Trinitarian order of love: distinction, unity, fruitfulness. When we have these three attributes in our marriage, we image God’s eternal exchange of love. When we develop man-made solutions to avoid any of these three characteristics we sabotage our marriage. But if we live by Trinitarian love, we can pass on the riches of our glory to our children.