In his book, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” John Gray discusses the differences between the sexes. He states that, “The most frequently expressed complaint women have about men is that men don’t listen.”(pg. 15) He goes on to say that men want to help their mates feel better by solving their problems.(pg. 17)
Most men are simply not good listeners. Instead men are “doers.” Men communicate their love to their female partners by doing things for them. For example, several years ago my wife wanted me to make her a potting bench. She gave me a picture of what she wanted (because men are very visual also) and I went and purchased the material. On a Saturday afternoon I assembled the potting bench and completed it. It didn’t look exactly like the picture but she was happy with my creation. This is the way men communicate their love. They ask, we do.
Abraham was asked by Sarah to send his servant, Hagar, and her son, Ishmael, away and Abraham did what she asked. Abraham kept his feelings to himself about the matter but was very distressed. Ishmael, like Isaac, was also his son. Abraham listened to Sarah, but this request was very difficult to hear. But, Abraham is also tuned in to God. God recognized Abraham’s distress and comforted him. God promised Abraham that his son, Ishmael, would be the leader of a great nation.
Abraham was faithful. Abraham trusted God although the whole incident did not seem logical. When men can’t see the logic in something they get very frustrated and even angry. I am sure that Abraham believed that the sending away of Ishmael was not necessary. Sarah was probably jealous or just wanted Hagar out of the way, now that she had given Abraham a son of her own. But God must have seen it differently. For some reason, God sides with Sarah for God tells Abraham to do as she says.
God knows that Ishmael’s future is important to Abraham. He could let go, especially when he was assured that his son, Ishmael, would be successful. This is a story about being faithful, making difficult decisions and listening. This is why I believe that Abraham isn’t just another male from Mars. He is from Venus too, because his ability to listen is very keen.
Abraham does more than just listen to Sarah. He responds (after God tells him to). His faithfulness, however has a cost as Abraham sends Hagar and the boy away. This must have taken tremendous courage. It is also one of those rare occasions in the Bible where a man’s true feelings are described. “The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son.”
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John Gray also claims that men hide their feelings. Rather than discuss or display how they really feel they withdraw and cease to talk. This frustrates women since they like to talk about what is bothering them. Perhaps God talked with Abraham in his “cave.” This is the place that Gray claims that men go, to mull over their problems. But to say that Abraham was devoid of feelings would be untrue. For clearly he was distressed and in chapter 23 we find him openly weeping and mourning at the death of his wife, Sarah.
Abraham listened and Abraham had feelings. This would make him a man not from Mars but from Venus. But to say Abraham is from Mars or Venus is not the point. What made Abraham unique was his faith in God. He trusted God’s judgment and acted upon it although it meant a personal loss. Abraham had to make a decision that had both personal and global consequences. On the one hand he had to let go of his son. On the other hand, his son would become a great leader.
There are times when all of us are faced with making decisions that test our faith. And we don’t always feel the assurance that God is with us. Unfortunately, our self centeredness inhibits our ability to act in a way that gives us short term benefits instead of long term gains.
In “Chicken Soup for the Couple’s Soul” there is a story that is very poignant. It is about a man named Edward Wellman, who left his home country and went to America. Times were desperate and his father gave him the family savings so that he could be successful. He had an opportunity to shovel coal in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and hopefully strike gold.
Edward worked hard, obtaining a moderate income. But he was lonely as he yearned for his sweetheart, Ingrid, whom he left behind. Their two families were good friends and he secretly hoped to make her his wife. A year passed and Mr. Henderson agreed to send one of his two daughters to America. She had a good mind for business and with her help, the two of them could begin a business to enable both families to come to America.
Edward prepared for the arrival of his beloved Ingrid. The day came, and when the train arrived Edward’s heart beat with eager anticipation. When the train stopped and the passengers disembarked, his heart stopped with a sinking thud. It wasn’t Ingrid who got off the train but Marta, her older sister. Dumfounded and perplexed Edward managed to say the words, “Welcome.”
Mr. Henderson, Marta’s and Ingrid’s father was right. Marta did have a great sense for business. She was a wonderful cook too. She had a quiet smile, but she was the wrong woman. Together, Edward and Marta worked for a whole year. One spring afternoon, torrential rains washed down the hillside, eroding the entrance to their mine. Edward and Marta worked furiously, bagging sand and stacking them along the entrance. They worked for hours, shoveling sand, bagging it and hurling them on the pile. The rains diminished and they had saved the mine.
A few days later , a telegraph came announcing the arrival of the two families from the old country. The thought of seeing Ingrid was almost too much to handle for Edward. When the train arrived and Ingrid appeared, Marta said, “Go to her.” Edward was astonished. But, Marta said that she knew that Edward always loved his sister and it was her he longed for.
Marta then told Edward that she loved him but all she wanted was his happiness. At that moment, Edward saw a beauty in Marta he had never seen before. He remembered all they had done together in the last year. Edward replied to Marta, “No, Marta, it is you I want.” He then swept her into his arms and kissed her. The two families gathered around them and announced that they had come for the wedding.
I do not believe in forced marriages, nor am I saying we always do the right things when it comes to love. This is simply a story about a man who also forged ahead in life with a painful loss. Like Abraham who sent his son away, Edward went into a foreign country leaving everything he loved behind. He, however was their only hope of building a life for the future of their families. Like Abraham, he too acted in faith.
None of us has any idea what the future can bring. We do, however have the assurance of God that when we act in faith, we will be blessed.
––Copyright, 1999, Dr. Keith Wagner. Used by permission.