In one paragraph in Hebrews 11, there are 2 phrases about Abraham that paint a vivid, if not shocking, picture. The first is that when God called him to go, “he went out, not knowing where he was going.” And the second is that from this one man, innumerable descendants were born though he was “as good as dead.” During Lent, we are encouraged to say no to aspects of comfort, and say yes to aspects of faith. These phrases about Abraham illustrate the challenging pivot from comfort to faith.
When I was a kid, my parents would occasionally load us up in the station wagon and tell us “we’re going to a D.U. – a Destination Unknown.” These DU trips would sometimes lead us to the Dairy Queen, or the park, or every once in a while to a cool kid’s museum. It was easy to trust my parents when they told us that something fun was waiting for us. And even if we had been unsure about the quality of the D.U., we knew we would come back by bedtime to our comfortable home with familiar toys and friends nearby.
The stakes feel pretty different for Abram when God invites him to a Destination Unknown in Genesis 12. God tells him to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.” This wasn’t exactly a 2-hour jaunt to his local Mesopotamian Dairy Queen. God’s instruction to Abram must have been as challenging and counter-cultural then as it would be today. I can only imagine the 47 questions that would flood my mind if I believed God was telling me to go.
How will I explain it to my family, friends, and co-workers without sounding like a raving lunatic?
How will I earn money to pay for food, clothes, and Netflix? There will be Wi-Fi there, right?
Do I really trust that God will stay with us, guide us, and provide for us?
Am I confident that I’ve actually heard God’s instructions correctly?
How many of those questions have “I” at the center? They focus on my image, my needs & wants, my provision, and my doubt.
I wonder if we limit the application of God’s invitation by interpreting it too literally, and thinking of it only as a geographical move out of the country. Of course God can call us to literally go from our country, leave our comfort zone, and be strangers in a strange land, but let’s not overlook how He might call us to make radical choices, rejecting comfort for faith without even changing our address.
When you begin to make bold, counter-cultural choices, people take notice, especially when they’ve known you for a while. Sometimes by staying in your community, God can use the contrast between your before and after to illustrate how He changes lives. In Abraham’s case, the change seemed pretty ridiculous actually. How would a man who was “as good as dead” be the father of Israel? The key point here is that God is not only able to use broken people to accomplish His goals, but He chooses to involve broken people. So that there would not be any confusion whether it was the man’s power or God’s power, God chose a man “as good as dead” to bring new life.
Sometimes when I’m driving on a dark, foggy night, and I can barely see the road ahead, I think maybe that’s how Abraham felt. Since God didn’t reveal the destination, or the step-by-step directions, Abraham could only see a few steps down the road. He had no choice but to keep listening to God. And I wonder “why would God choose to use me as His messenger, and send stubborn, self-reliant people out on a dark, foggy night?” But our weakness provides quite a contrast for His power and grace to shine bright. And our reliance on Him draws us closer, as we walk forward in faith to the Destination Unknown.