Not too long ago, whenever there was a false start penalty in an NFL game, the referee would turn on his mike, face the press box and say, “Prior to the snap, false start on the offense. Five-yard penalty, repeat the down.”  Without fail, every time, I would also say, “I’m glad they clarified that it was prior to the snap.”  I think they’ve finally realized that it’s a little ridiculous to say “prior to the snap” on a false start penalty because I haven’t heard it in a while.  After all, if it wasn’t prior to the snap, then it couldn’t be a false start, right?

In one of today’s readings, we see a story of somebody committing a false start penalty.  Sarai, Abram’s wife, is fed up with the fact that she has been unable to provide a child for her husband.  In Genesis 15, God promises Abram that he will have descendants as numerous as the stars.  But in Genesis 16, Sarai has had enough.  She jumps at the line of scrimmage… prior to the snap… false start.

So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children.  Go and sleep with my servant.  Perhaps I can have a child through her.”  And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal (Genesis 16:2)

It’s amazing to me that Abram has been so faithful in trusting the Lord through everything, but now he goes astray.  Sure, it’s Sarai’s idea initially, but she’s just going with the custom of the day.  It wasn’t unusual for women to have a child through their servants.  What this would mean is that the servant would conceive and give birth, but the child would be considered the wife’s child.  But, sometimes, the customs of the day aren’t necessary the means to accomplish God’s tasks for us.

We have to be careful in our life of faith.  Often times, we want what we want and we want it now.  We don’t want to wait.  We commit a false start penalty.  Patience is a difficult virtue to cultivate, but it’s a necessary one.  Trust in God, and trust also in God’s timing.