It was one of the questions she had asked herself, now and then, through the years of her sojourning: Why have I agreed to this? What is it for? What have I given up? What have I gained? Is this a sacrifice, or just another part of life?
The answers weren’t easy, or obvious, and they changed from situation to situation. It could have been better, it could have been worse. More and more she had come to rest on the simple truth that no two lives are alike, and comparison only leads to confusion. Things were what they were. It was a different life, nothing she could have prepared for or imagined, but not necessarily a harder life. Or was it?
It was the little things, most of the time, which she missed the most, the small, intimate, everyday feminine things that had been the shape and colour and perfume of her daily life in Ur. Here, in the silences of Canaan, there was no sending a maid down to the bazaar for some little indulgence she fancied, no little visits with the friends and relatives she had known all her life, and no whiling away the lonely hours with the latest gossip and scandal. She knew nothing now about those things that had once filled her days, and discovered, after a while, that she cared a lot less than she had expected to. Her world may have shrunk, but what she had left meant so much more. And at least she never had to care if some of the gossip had been about herself and her barrenness, and the whispers that her husband really should divorce her and try again for an heir. But he never had, and for that alone she would give thanks for him forever.
But it was different for him. She had seen the glad light in his eyes when he had communed with God, the bright shining faith with which he had set out for an unknown country to pursue an impossible blessing. She had to take it on trust.
But there were other times. She had seen when fear had been his master, and, though she had been, in her turn, too afraid to speak, her resentment had burned. Twice, as if she were some mere commodity, he had lied about her status as his wife, and in order to ensure his own survival, had abandoned her to the harem of a foreign king. And twice Abraham’s God had rescued her, and she had begun to wonder if it were possible that she was just as important to God as her husband was. If so, that was a discovery that outweighed all the loneliness and discomfort of these travelling years.
But doubt still haunted her, for if God cared for her, why was she still barren? Didn’t that make any other blessing look trivial?
But now there was no further doubt, no further resentment or sense of futile sacrifice. She held in her arms her Isaac, her child of wonder, the focus of all those grand promises, the first step towards their fulfilment. This child had transformed her laughter, from the laughter of scornful doubt to the laughter of surprised delight. She lifted him up to see him better, and did not notice that the shadow of his outstretched arms formed the shape of a cross. She did not know that there would come a time when God himself would be a stranger and a wanderer in a far country, and the birth of her child was the first step towards a sacrifice that would change all history, all eternity.