3. Is There a Man in the House? (Genesis 16:1-6)
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When it comes to women's emotions, many of us as men are at a loss.
We are completely at sea, awash in the confusion of what we see as irrational tears.
Many of us hate it when women cry because we don't know what to do about whatever it is they're crying about. The only thing we know is that somehow it must be our fault that they are crying, but we cannot figure out what it is that we have done. As a result we feel confused, distressed, disturbed, frustrated. We can't stand it and we want them to cry. Only when we say that they cry even more.
Although we may never say it, Archie Bunker's, "Stifle it, Edith!," seems like a very proper response. And many women do learn to stifle it because they don't want to make their husbands feel uncomfortable and frustrated.
Now if we are married, then we learn that there are patterns to our wives' emotions, i.e., normal times to cry, times of normal expressiveness.
They may not seem normal to us, but they are consistent. We can expect them, prepare for them, adjust to them, even disappear until it's over.
There also are other times when it seems perfectly proper to cry, times when even we cry.
Times of joy when some great and wonderful thing happens. Times of sadness when a friend suffers or when injustice occurs. Times of concern when we are under great pressure and struggle mightily. This is especially true if we or our wives are ones who feel the needs of others and identify with their hurts. Tears come in response to the natural ups and downs of life, especially the downs.
Fear over a child's illness.
Hurt over an aging parent's gradual erosion into death.
Pain over the loss of a dream in the failure of a business.
Women may grieve for the days of freedom before life became so restricted, before children and financial limitation and the radical change of identity that being a wife and mother bring. If a women is living with a man who makes no real effort to understand her, she may even regret giving up her freedom and become angry over it all. Then she may stop crying. I can tell you the one thing worse than a wife who cries is a wife who quits crying. I can tell you that one day you're liable to come home and find a very angry woman confronting you with papers in her hand and an ultimatum in her voice. For the first time she may have found the courage to tell you what she's been trying to tell you all along. Now you are ready to respond, but it may be too late.
Few things create greater emotion in a woman than the desire to have children.
Most women enter marriage with the expectation that they will become mothers. They've made some kind of careful evaluation and determined that they are marrying the man whom they want to be the father of their children. They fully expect that when the time comes they will conceive and have children, and it is a great anticipation for them. But if it happens that they cannot have children, this is an unbearable disappointment to them. Often they make this discovery through the terror and trauma of a miscarriage.
I recall two experiences I had that helped me understand this when I was pastoring.
One occurred when a couple came to me because they could not have children. They had been married in their mid-thirties and were running out of time and were greatly afraid they would never have a child. Though they were both highly rational people, they were very emotional over this issue.
The other occurred when a couple left our church because I did not come to visit her when she had a miscarriage. We had given them great support with at least one other staff member directly involved with them, but that wasn't good enough. The pastor hadn't come, and she was going to another church where the pastor cared. I understood her feelings and apologized to her, but that wasn't enough, and they left.
This, of course, is not a new struggle. This struggle is as old as time, and we see it today on the ancient pages of Scripture in the marriage of Abram and Sarai.
This morning we enter directly into their marriage tent and listen in on two of the most revealing conversations a marriage can have, the conversation of a frustrated woman and her equally frustrated husband.
Abram the Man continues to come home and be the Missing Man. In the first instance, we saw him to be the Missing Man because of his career, his personal ambition and drivenness.
Today we see him to be the Missing Man because of his male ego. He wants a son just as much as his wife. He just shows it in a different way.
Abraham, the Missing Man: Male Ego
A. Sarai Was A Woman in Pain (16:1)
1. Sarai had already paid a high price for her husband's career.
a. She had put everything at risk at his direction.
b. She had paid a terrible price for being his wife.
c. She had left her family and her roots and all she had ever known because of the promise of God.
d. Yet, there was no way this promise was ever going to come true.
e. She had to do something about it.
2. Sarai made a suggestion.
a. This suggestion was culturally acceptable.
b. Everything that belonged to her slave belonged to her.
c. If her slave had a child by her husband, the child was Sarai's.
d. This is surrogate motherhood ancient style.
e. This suggestion was not spiritually acceptable because it was not God's choice.
f. God promised a son, but God wasn't delivering on His promise.
g. So Sarai took matters in her own hands.
3. Sarai was in distress because she wanted a child.
a. Abram meant Exalted Father.
b. Think of how Sarah felt when someone asked him how many children he had.
4. We can hear Abram talking to Eleazar: Cry, sigh, and cry!
Why can't a woman be like a man? Why can't she accept reality?
5. If Abram would have said no to Sarai, she would have accepted it.
a. She had lost perspective due to her emotions.
b. She got no help from Abram.
6. Abram failed to meet her need emotionally because he chose not to trust God and wait for His promise.
7. In the process of his spiritual breakdown, Abram completely misunderstood Sarai's needs.
a. Men, one of our biggest problems is our failure to trust God in the things that matter the most to us.
b. Most often, this means our careers, because this is where we find our greatest satisfaction and identity.
c. When we fail to trust God, we also fail to support our wives' emotional needs.
d. These two realities go hand-in-hand.
e. When we fail to trust God, we are off fulfilling our desires in our own selfish ways.
f. Our time and energy is taken up with our own interests, and we have no strength to hear our wives or take them seriously.
g. Even when they seek to tell us about their needs, we tend not to hear them or to dismiss them or to discount them because we are so totally focused on ourselves.
h. Our male ego kicks in, and our wives suffer as a result.
Abram became the second man to say, "Yes, Dear," at the wrong time.
Sometimes, when they are in such a state, wives say one thing and mean another.
Clearly this is what happens with Sarai.
Sarai Passes Her Pain on to Abram
A. Hagar Despises Sarai (16:3-4)
1. Now the deed is done, and Abram has acted out of his male ego.
2. Now Hagar despises Sarai.
3. She must have hated being a slave.
a. I wonder if she were a special gift to Sarai from Pharaoh.
b. Think of what it was like for her when she was Sarai's slave in Pharaoh's palace.
c. She was in a place of honor and recognition.
d. She might have been a slave, but at least she was a slave to a rising and powerful woman.
e. Then came the day when she had to pack up and leave Egypt in disgrace.
f. She left all the glories of Pharaoh's palace for a tent in the wild frontier territory of Canaan, a backwash in the middle of nowhere.
g. She had no status, no hope, no future, no role.
h. But now she is the mother of the master's child--and she hated her mistress.
B. Abram Feels Sarai's Pain (16:5-6)
1. Sarai cursed Abram (16:5)
2. Abraham refused to become involved in the consequences (16:5).
3. Hear him talking to Eleazar again.
I did what she wanted me to do.
How can anyone live with a woman like that? I QUIT!
Sometimes men say the opposite of what they mean.
The word is out that Sam is retiring, and you want Sam's job, yet you feel it would be inappropriate if you made that too obvious, so you suggest Bob for the position. When the boss gives Bob the job, you are furious and storm into his office complaining bitterly about the unfair treatment you are receiving. And the boss says, "Why did you suggest Bob if you didn't mean it? That doesn't make sense." So men can also say what they don't mean.
4. Abram completely missed Sarai's emotional needs.
a. He should have put his arms around her and told her no.
b. Instead, he did what she said and only added to her fears.
Now, none of us will ever do something quite like this, but there are things we can do.
Of course, if a man has an affair, he does untold damage to his wife. If a man puts his career before his wife, he does untold damage to his wife.
But there are other things we can do.
Is your wife ever irrational, crying for no reason at all, crying when she shouldn't, crying when you do what she tells you to do, crying when you follow her direction? Perhaps that's because there are times when there is no man in your house?
That has certainly been true in my house. She wanted me to paint, but I didn't want to.
We may be men everywhere but at home. I've had strong men come to me and talk about their wives. There is no communication between them, only coldness, yet he's doing exactly what she says. And that may well be the problem. What he needs to do is to provide leadership and assurance and be a man around the house.
I have one simple question to ask you.
WHAT IS YOUR EGO COSTING YOUR WIFE?