I imagine it was a bright day, and probably hot, in Ur.
I can imagine that there was hustle and bustle in the marketplace.
I've got no idea where he was when he first heard the voice.
Voice. Capital V, voice.
I have no idea what kind of day it was, but I'm allowed to take a little poetic license here, y'all.
One thing I've always wondered is how he knew. How did he know it was the voice of God he was hearing? Ur was not -- God had not necessarily revealed Himself to anyone in a long time. How did Abraham know who it was that was talking to him?
Had the knowledge of God been passed down from Noah to Shem and down through to Terah, and thence to Terah's son Abram?
It's Avram in Hebrew. I think I like that better. It's got a ring of mystery and historicity to me, a girl whose family way back in the day came from Europe and not the Middle East.
Did Terah know who You were/are?
We don't know.
The first occurrence, the first mention we see of our buddy Avram is when he shows up in Genesis 12.
It says that your voice came to him and started talking and said, "Get up."
By the way. Whenever God says "Get up," something big is about to happen. Something is about to change your life, and you will never be the same.
Leave your people and your family and your father's house and go to the land that I will show you.
Are you kidding me?
I'm dying to know if he knew You before this. If he was used to hearing Your voice. If the two of you had a relationship before You made this incredibly ballsy request of him.
Well, it would have been ballsy if anyone else had asked. And it was ballsy of him to do it.
One thing I always marvel at in the Bible is that the figures that we know and love -- when they are asked to something, they do it. We do not get to see how they struggled, how they rationalized, how they tried to think of how they could get out of it.
We don't get to see how they begged. How they wept. How they got angry.
Because, I mean, come on. They were human, too.
We don't get to see what Sarai, Avram's wife, said when he told her. Did she understand? Was she angry?
They left friends behind. Home.
Granted, Terah went with them. They all packed up: Terah, Avram and Sarai, and Lot, the son of Avram's brother. And their households and all their servants and just all the things. They picked up and packed up and moved across the freaking country, the freaking world, y'all.
Terah died along the way, in a land where they had stopped. Your voice said, Keep going.
They had no idea where they were going.
They only knew to walk until You said Here.
I can only imagine how many times Abram wavered. How often he was so, so close to shaking His fist at the heavens. All he had to go on was a promise.
And that's all we have to go on, too. Sometimes it feels like walking on thin air. On water.
Sometimes it feels like leaping into an abyss. All those cliches that we all know.
And sometimes it feels like dying a slow death of oblivion.
The promise feels so far away, like we will never see it. It feels like You're pulling our legs.
You know, when we're using our logical brains, our highly conditioned Western brains, our highly programmed Logic is king and so is science brains, then -- well, we can hardly believe in promise.
That's what Paul meant in my second-favorite passage in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 1, when he said that Greeks/Gentiles seek wisdom.
In America, we come from the Greek tradition. I am walking around and breathing it in. I grew up in classical school models, founded on Greek and Roman thinkers. I am so incredibly grateful for these foundations. I am so proud of my ability to use the mind God gave me, to debate, to process logically, to think.
But what I know is true is that our focus on logic and reason has taken away our capacity to marvel at miracle and promise, and it has robbed us of the touchability and tangibility and tasteability of faith.
Often, holding onto faith feels like holding a piece of floss that keeps you from falling into the abyss: fragile and foolish.
But faith is a full-body experience. It comes from the inside out until everything is different.
And at first the promise, quite frankly, seems dumb.
It's usually the opposite of what we want or what the world around us thinks we should want. But suddenly, one day, BOOM -- a silent boom. Like a cricket ball landing on top of down pillows (I'm not sure what made me think of cricket but I think I'm squarely in C.S. Lewis territory, so I'm okay with it).
And we are forced to see the world differently than we ever did before, and nothing is the same, and yet -- it is everything around us that is the same, and it is we who are different.
Because we've seen a world as it could be, not as it is.
We have had a vision, as it were.
That's part of what promise is. God says to us, I have a different idea. And suddenly the glass is shattered, and light streams in brighter than we thought it could.
It hurts our eyes.
Promise gives us hope and makes us excited and at the same time it utterly suuuuuuuucks, because it is painful, and it involves change, and sometimes it alters our plans.
Once we have heard the Promise, once we have had a vision, we cannot un-see it. We cannot go back to how we were before.
We are affected, and as much as we wish we could see life the way we used to, we cannot. We have seen a different idea, and we are undone by it.
It's got so much hope and, if you'll forgive me, so much promise; how can we possibly ignore it?
But we know what it will take to get there.
That's what made the initial promise to Avram so hard, I think. We don't know that it was hard, but I think we would be foolish to doubt it.
God said, I will make you a great nation, and you will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.
Wow, what a vision.
But it was preceded by Get up; leave your family and your father's house and go to the place I will show you.
His life in Ur was probably pretty swell. And he didn't even know where he was going!
I imagine his neighbors thought he was crazy. Foolish. Throwing his life away.
I bet he wondered if he wasn't.
But the craziest thing is this: He went.
He picked up and went. For a time, he and his family settled in a land called Haran and made a life there. But when Terah died, and nothing was keeping Abram tied to the land, God said the same thing: Get up. Go to the place I will show you.
He was a wanderer, with his wife and all his household, and had no idea where he was going, and he left again. I wonder if it was easier the second time. Somehow I doubt it.
I cannot fathom what it takes to get up and leave everything you know and love and simply go. A dream, necessity, a crazy call from God that you can no longer ignore.
Because that's what happens when we have vision. We can no longer ignore what is hanging in the mist before our eyes. The hope and vision that makes us starry-eyed, because we're gazing at something no one else can see.
It's the vision we have to keep hold of.
And it makes us new. That's why our boy Abram got a new name: Abraham.
A new name to go with his new vision, both given to him by God.
Vision is hard. Sometimes I wonder if I have vision or if I'm simply making up. And I bet Abraham had wondered if he was making it up, too. Especially when people started asking him what the crap he thought he was doing.
Sometimes people think they have ownership over your life. They become offended when you do something other than what they think you should do.
I just cannot get over the bravery of Abraham, and of Sarai/Sarah with him. By the way, it's not lost on me that the original Sarah, the woman whose name I share down through the millennia, was an Adventuress, too. Because there's no mention of her being reluctant or anything, or ever leveling a complaint against her husband: I followed you here so you owe me. Never. She went with him. I wonder if she had an Adventure-spirit, too.
It would fit with the name, don't you know.
I cannot get over their courage. The courage to take a step. And then another. Step out onto the Road and keep their footing and simply follow where they were led. Simply go where they were told, with no idea where that was.
I simply cannot get over their bravery. And I always feel like they had something special, had something I will never have.
But I realized yesterday morning that that isn't true.
I've got the same kind of courage (Again, maybe it comes from the name Sara(h); who knows?).
I've got the kind of courage that listens quietly to the Voice and says okay.
I've got the kind of bravery that swallows past the fear rising in her throat and puts her feet onto the road because, I mean -- I've heard the Voice of God. How can I ignore it?
I think that's really what it came down to. They heard the Voice of God and knew they could not do otherwise. Because to ignore it is to die. Maybe not literally, but figuratively. When we ignore the Voice in our hearts, something in us dulls, deadens, dies. It is no longer bright and sharp. A part of our souls die.
Our lives are opportunities to hear the call of God and, over and over and over again, to respond.
Our lives are to be one gigantic Yes to God. And to purpose and to calling and to all the fearful things that kick us in the teeth and in the back of the kneecaps.
Really, our lives are to say yes to fear. Because I don't know that God has ever called us to be comfortable.
Saying yes to fear, all the while believing that fear does not own us or control us.
Looking up at the heavens with bright, clear eyes, because thence comes our life and livelihood and liveliness.
We are afraid. But we will not let that deter us from the call of God.
We will step out. Like the ancestors that came before us, like Abraham and Sarah -- because if we are the Church, they are our ancestors -- we will step out. We will listen. We will say Okay.
After all --
It's in our DNA.