Long past the midnight hour, I lie awake beside my sleeping husband. At last I rise, put on robe and sandals, and draw the veil across my face. I creep lightly, almost silently, out of the tent. A few fires still burn, and the servants at the watch observe me, but say nothing. I walk and walk, until I no longer hear the whispers of the watchful few. Here there is no sound but the murmur of drowsy sheep.
I unveil my face and look to the night sky, but find it blank and empty. Perhaps clouds hide the stars, but the great dark void echoes the emptiness of my heart, and of my arms.
How can I speak—I, a mere woman? How can I dare to question the One who dwells above the sky? And if I ask... will I be answered?
O Lord God...
God who led us from our home and kinsmen to an alien land...
God who speaks to my husband as to a companion... as to a friend...
Tonight, O God, speak to me. Speak to me, and teach me to believe in your promise.
I do not forget, O God, your manifold blessings. We have prospered in these lands. The Canaanites know of my husbandís wealth. They honor his name, because they know that you have blessed him; they fear him, for they know that you protect him.
To me, God, you gave beauty—fatal, ageless beauty: hair black as silk, skin as lustrous as pearl, frame as lithe and lovely as a girlís. Other womenís bodies shrivel and sag beneath the desert sun. They would not rouse the lust of Pharoah or Abimelech. Yet I would trade my supple arms for their aged wrinkled ones, arms that embrace their childrenís children.
When you called Abram out of Ur, you promised that he would be the father of a great nation. Was I wrong to wonder then if the promise you gave to him was not for me?
When Abram would have adopted the steward Eliezer as his son, you said, ďThis shall not be your heir.Ē You covenanted with Abram that his own seed would be numberless as the stars. You showed him visions of terror and hope—a time of bondage, and a time of conquest. And this was your covenant with him: that his progeny, this mighty race, would fill the lands from Egypt to the Euphrates.
When the Egyptian handmaid went in to my husband and conceived, how she mocked my barrenness with her eyes! How she smiled into my face, insolent and gloating, and whispered among the maidens! How she paraded her victory, and sought to win my husbandís favor! Yet when I drove her from the camp, you saved her to bear Ishmael and vowed to multiply his seed.
When you gave my husband a new name, you gave another name to me, as well: Sarah, daughter of royalty. You told Abraham that I, not another, would be the mother of kings and nations. You spoke of the son that I would bear at the time appointed. But when your servants visited us upon the plains of Mamre and promised a miracle, do you wonder that I laughed in my heart? Was laughter not better than tears?
At the time appointed.
In the fullness of time.
O God, time for us mortals is not your time. We bloom and flourish for an hour, then wither; and a womanís fruitful hour is shorter than a manís. My hour passed long ago, and bore no fruit.
But Abraham loves me still, loves me as he did when we joined hands, long ago, in Ur of the Chaldees. Tonight he embraced me like a young lover, and praised my beauty:
You, my love, my spouse, are fairest among the daughters of women...
In his embrace, the years slipped and fell away like a discarded veil. Was I ninety, or nineteen?
O God, is this the sign?
But how can it be?
Speak to me, O God, even in a whisper. Tell me you will fill these empty arms, even as you promised.
Teach me to believe.
A breath of cool wind brushes my face—and though I hear no voice, I sense that I am no longer alone. I raise my eyes and behold not a blank, empty void, but a canopy of ten thousand stars.
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