Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred five years; and Terah died in Haran.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan.
This story makes me curious. What made Terah decide to leave Ur? Was it, maybe, a reaction to the death of his son Haran, Lot’s father? Did he simply want to get away from a place that had such painful associations for him? We’re not told that he also sensed a call from God to go to the land of Canaan. Maybe he did, and was disobedient by stopping short of that goal. Or maybe he didn’t – maybe it simply seemed like a good idea at the time, and then when he arrived at Haran that seemed like a better one. We’ll never know…
And then, what about Abram? I wonder whether wanted to leave Ur in the first place but was given no choice and simply had to tag along with his father. Or just maybe, had he sensed a call from God and was the journey his suggestion in the first place? “Hey, Dad, why don’t we leave Ur and go to Canaan? I think God wants us to do that” and Terah decided to go along with it, but then got weary of all the travelling and when they got as far as Haran dug his heels in and refused to go any further, leaving Abram frustrated but still loyal to his father and doing his duty by him, caring for him until his death. Once again, we’ll never know.
However, what we do know is that, after the death of his father, Abram senses that God wants him on the move. And of course, with the death of his father, he is now the one who calls the shots and wife, nephew and assorted household personnel simply have to get on with it and go with him. I wonder what they made of it?
So often we take for granted our freedom to choose. But what about when life denies us that freedom? Abram, in the culture of the time, had no choice about leaving Ur. Similarly, Sarai, Lot and others had no choice about leaving Haran and journeying into the unkown. Because the unknown is what God was calling Abram into. “Go from your country ………. to the land that I will show you.” Not “Go to Canaan”. Abram set out for Canaan because that had been their earlier destination and he had to set out for somewhere…
I wonder what it felt like for Sarai and Lot and the rest of Abram’s household…
How many times does life seem to force a particular direction on us, just as it did for them?
Nearly 18 months ago now, we moved house. Although I had a strong sense at the time that the move was, somehow, very, very “right”, I was an extremely reluctant house-mover as we’d lived in the previous location for 27 years, 25 in the same house. I remember saying to my husband “if anything happens to you, I’m moving straight back!!” Now, 18 months on, I look back and realise that the move was the best thing that could have happened to me at that stage. Now, I’d not even dream of going back. New vistas previously unimagined are opening up before me. I, like Abram, am journeying into the unknown, seeing just one step at a time and taking each step blindly trusting that this journey is of God.
Others might be forced into a new life, a new location, a new ministry, by physcial illness and incapacity. Not what would have been chosen but nevertheless rich with God’s blessing. Or a sudden bereavement can throw our life into disarray and necessitate a change in the way we live, sometimes in where we live. Clergy, for example, live in a “tied cottage” and when a member of the clergy dies unexpectedly in service their family have to move from their home just when they might most want and need to security of staying put.
And only this morning I had the privilege of attending the morning chapel service at the Immigration Removal Centre just a mile or so down the road from my new home. I was last there a month or so ago, and approximately 10 detainees came to the service, only 1 of whom I’d met on my previous visit a couple of weeks earlier. Today there were 15 – but only 2 of them were there last time. The turnover is rapid as people are either deported or win their appeal and move back into the community outside. These men (who are by no means all convicted criminals) live with extreme uncertainty, often having only 24 hours notice that they are flying out of the country.
Faced with an unknown future we have all of our securities stripped from us. Reluctant relocation, physical incapacity, bereavement, unexpected unemployment, deportation… all of these force us to journey into the unknown. Sometimes we are blessed, as I was before we moved, with a sense that it’s somehow the “right” thing to do (and boy, did I cling to the memory of that sense when things got really tough after the move!). More often we aren’t and simply need to step out in blind faith that the God who has called us to life is alongside us in the fog.
Sometimes we need to have all our securities stripped from us in order to begin to hear the new thing to which God is calling us. As Maggi Dawn says, usually we only feel our way a bit at a time into the new life to which God is leading us.
And whenever I visit the Immigration Removal Centre I am humbled by the faith of the men there, who have no inihibitions in pouring out their hearts to God and claiming His promises for themselves. They cling to God because that’s all they’ve got left. They trust God for their future. And they and we are blessed when everything is stripped from us because then we learn, in a way that is rarely if ever possible when our lives are going swimmingly, just how trustable God actually is!
Postscript: If you value your comfort and security and familiar routine, don’t ever, ever pray “Lord, increase my faith”… because God will always answer that prayer. And He will probably do so by removing our securities one at a time until we trust Him and Him alone. And boy, is He trustable!