Her Name Means Laughter

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Okay, so…

I know that in my post Signs Signs Everywhere the Signs, I talked about how it can be unwise to look for signs when it comes to marriage. 

Furthermore, I know that in my post called What Single People Wish Married People Knew, I talked about how frustrated I get when people tell me I just need to let go to find my partner.

So it is pretty ironic that today, I’m going to talk about how I got a sign that told me to let go. 

Rewind to about thirteen years ago. I was in India for two months.  I went to learn about starting an orphanage, which I was really interested in at the time. I spent a lot of time drawing pictures and singing and dancing with children who didn’t speak my language. But who needs language when you have love? 

On that trip I also got to preach to a jail in which everyone in the whole place, including the Muslim guards, became Christians. They started a bible study that to the best of my knoweldge is still going.

I also happened to go to India because I was running away from a relationship. I was so unsure if I wanted to marry this guy that I thought it would be a good idea to go halfway around the world to figure it out. Maybe the arranged marriages I found in India were a sign that I should stop dating so I wouldn’t have to decide on anything and just get a mail order husband from Brazil or something. Or maybe it would be easier than that and God would just give me a dream.

Lo and behold I did have a dream. It is amazing that I had a dream because it was amazing that I was sleeping. And it was amazing that I was sleeping because I had screaming cockroaches all around my bed. And yes, when I say screaming cockroaches I do mean cockroaches that scream. Screaming cockroaches are India’s national symbol. Maybe.

Anyway back to the dream. It’s been a long time since I had that dream, but I’m pretty sure that I was told to look up a verse in the bible. So I woke up and looked it up.

This is what it said: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.“(Galatians 4:22-23)

The story that this verse was referring to was that of Abraham in Genesis 17. God had told Abraham at a very late age that his descendants would outnumber the stars of the sky. But year after year after freaking year (can you tell I relate to this story?) the promised son did not come.

Finally, Abraham felt like he couldn’t wait any longer. He slept with his wife’s servant Hagar, and had a son named Ishmael. Abraham tried to force the promise to come before it was time, and the result was the son of a slave. God made it clear that Ishmael was not the son he had promised. Finally Isaac came, the promised son, the son of a free woman.

It is also important to note for the sake of the rest of this story that when Sarah, Abraham’s wife, finally became pregnant with Isaac, she laughed.

I knew when I read this verse what God was telling me. Kate, you long for family, and I promise you family. But I do not want you to try to control things to receive my promise. I want to give you the promise in my timing. You need to trust me.

So I got home, went out to dinner with my boyfriend the first night, and said something to this effect:

“So I had a dream and in that dream God told me I shouldn’t have an Ishmael which is the son of the flesh and maybe you are Ishmael which means you are the son of the flesh and also the son of a slave and I am being figurative here but maybe spiritually or actually in real life I am a son of a slave or we are both sons of slaves and even though you are flesh of my flesh maybe it would better if we were flesh of someone else’s fleshes or…screw it maybe we should break up.”

Needless to say he broke up with me not long after that.

Fast forward about eight years. I was again praying about whether I should marry my current boyfriend. I decided to go to a monastery to pray.

The first night, I met a woman named Amara who was a housekeeper at the monastery. I really love names and I thought her name was beautiful so I made a mental note to look up the meaning of her name.

The next day, it was cold and foggy so I couldn’t see the beautiful mountains and ocean from my little hermit hut in Big Sur, Caifornia.  I was sick. I thought it would be a waste of a day. Instead, I sat on my bed for at least twelve hours straight. God downloaded things to me the entire time.

I felt like he told me to read the story of Abraham, every verse of his story, and every verse referenced to go along with the story. I saw how Abraham longed for a child, for family, just like I did, and how God promised him over and over and over again about his family and his descendants. Promise, covenant, promise were written everywhere.

Sometime in the afternoon I closed my eyes for a while and had a waking dream. I went into this beautiful garden, something that looked like it was out of Alice in Wonderland, and God said “this is your family.” I walked over to three big flowers. A purple iris opened and there was a perfect, beautiful black baby girl sleeping.

I opened my eyes and decided to look up in a baby name book what Iris meant. It means Rainbow. The promise! What a beautiful confirmation of God’s faithfulness. I looked through the nicknames that came from Iris and saw the name Risa. I thought to myself “If I ever have a daughter, I will name her Risa to remember God’s promise.”

Just then, I remembered Amara and decided to look up her name. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that Amara means Promised by God. Just like for Abraham, I promise, I promise, I promise kept being repeated to me. I went away from that retreat feeling hopeful and loved. 

Fast forward another three years. More than ever I felt like Abraham. Year after year after freaking year and there I was, still alone. I had had a few possible relationships where I took things into my own hands, tried to force the promise, tried to coerce God into giving me something that I wanted, doubting God’s promises, doubting God’s goodness, I was (and still am) in a season of mourning and struggling to trust God.

This takes me to the last few weeks. I was in Mexico teaching at YWAM base. Somehow people started talking about names. I said “if I ever have a daughter, I will name her Risa.” A friend of mine said “Oh yes that is such a beautiful name. Laughter.” “What do you mean laughter?” “Risa means laughter in Spanish. Didn’t you know that?” I looked it up, and sure enough the Spanish word comes from the Latin word Risa and means laughter.

Do you know why this is amazing? Like really amazing? Like God actually looks on tiny me and cares about my dreams and cares about the details and cares about what my heart yearns for –amazing?

Because Sarah laughed when she was told she would finally have a baby at such an old age. Because she wanted to remember that laughter forever by using It as her baby’s namesake.

Isaac also means laughter.

I want to be careful, because I don’t want my belief in God’s existence or goodness to rest upon an event like my getting married or having a child. That is not fair to God, and it is not fair to anyone I might end up marrying. It is too much pressure. I don’t want to lose my faith over anything, including being alone. I mean, even Abraham was asked to sacrifice his promise after it was given to him, to show his allegiance to God over the promise.

But still, this whole story feels like such a gift. It honestly gives me hope that I really might have a family some day.

Even more importantly, at least for this season, I believe that this sign needs to be a reminder to me. That I have a choice in front of me to have the child of a slave, or the child of a free woman. I have situations in my life, especially when it comes to romance, where I can choose to control, to obsess, to lose hope, to doubt God. Or I can choose to trust, to live freely, to let go.

It seems that God is telling me to be free when it comes to my desire for a family. To know that he is good and he will work things out in his own time. 

I want to laugh just like Sarah laughed. It will be the laughter of letting go. It will be the laughter of joy despite my loneliness. It will be the laughter of a deep trust in the promise of God. The laughter of one who will not have a child of a slave, but the child of a free woman.

Today, we have a choice in front of us, just like Abraham had. The choice of slavery or the choice of freedom. The choice to bow down to our loneliness and our fear and our hopelessness or to dance, to sing, to laugh. 

Maybe we can collectively laugh as a way of saying “I choose freedom today.” And that laughter will ring out and break some of the shackles off of our weary souls.