The mission statement on the mantel (Fertility of the matriarchs)
Imagine your family has its own mission statement. It has been written up in an elegant type placed in a frame that was hand chiseled by your great-grandfather and it hangs over your fireplace mantel. When you look at the statement it gives you the warm fuzzies because you know it is true. Your great-grandfather (actually several "greats" ago) claimed that it was a mission statement given to him by God and your family tells stories of its fulfillment in each generation.
You are a small and very close-knit family. When you gather for a holy day of remembrance there are only a few in each generation. Yet you laugh together, enjoy a meal, and take time to worship your God. Actually taking the time to worship God is the reason that you gather, but it doesn't appear the same as it does for other families. First each generation gets their chance to tell their own story of God's faithfulness and their incredible encounters with Him. Then your great-aunt Judith begins to lead you in song. She is a much more recent convert as she was a foreigner to the family and of a different faith. Now when she sings tears stream down her face. Tears of freedom, forgiveness, and grace.
At some point the oldest living relative stands and with deep conviction reads the family's God-given mission statement:
"I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and will give to your offspring all these lands; and all the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for themselves through your offspring, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statues, and my laws."
There is silence.
Then grandma gets up and makes her way to the kitchen and the rest of the women slowly follow. It is there where they share how that statement has both encouraged and discouraged them. The women laugh about the strange things strangers and guests to their home have said to them after seeing the mission statement. Most guests have considered it strange that a family with so few children would post such a claim. Then someone points out how Sarah laughed at the traveling strangers who told her that she would indeed have a a son. You can sense a combination of a mysterious awe and a deep hurt in their responses. Then the twins' mother Rebekah talks about Isaac's prayer and her twenty year wait to conceive her boys only to have them struggle both inside and outside of her womb. There is conversation about how easily Abraham's second wife Keturah was able to conceive and discussion about where her kids are now. Then there is the discussion about the competition between Rachel and Leah and how fruitful their concubines were. Then there was the blessing of the birth of Joseph. What an incredible man is he. Discussion sways then to the frightful reality that Rachel died after receiving the fulfillment of the promise in her womb a second time. As we women so often do, various speculation is made there. And then the story of the heartbreak of Dinah is mentioned, but the conversation topic is quickly changed to the weather.
After a while the conversation returns to its original flow. The women discuss the mission statement from God and the difficulty of trust in the promise that had been made. Also the wonder of its fulfillment and the pride in knowing that God had chosen the barren to fill the earth and bless it! That way God does receive the glory - no doubt! The conversation lingers into the evening then it is time to serve the final meal. The family gathers around the table and together they give thanks to God for his faithfulness amidst their uncertainty, compromise, and selfish desires.