Abraham is one of my favorite Bible characters. The guy was so cool - heard voices and followed them, screwed over his wife, argued with God, cut some birds in half, became a dad in his second century, and then almost sacrificed the little pansy. The high points of Abraham's life provide the flannelgraph stories we all learned in Sunday school. Stop and think about his big encounters with God, an unfolding and mysterious plan:
- God whispers to him that he should leave his home and head to a new land where he is going to lead a new nation, blessing the whole globe.
- God tells Abraham that everywhere his foot steps is land he'll possess.
- God cuts a covenant with Abraham, saying he will have a son.
- God confirms the covenant, saying that Sarah will give birth to a son (and Abraham is circumcised - ouch).
- God comes to Abraham with some friends (and Sarah laughs, you remember) and then tells him that he is going to destroy Sodom.
- God tells Abraham to sacrifice his now pre-teen son on a mountaintop that he will show him, only to stop him at the last minute.
These are the things God says to Abraham. They are separated by mere pages in my Bible, but historically, they were separated by decades and decades.
I think we sometimes get the impression that people in the Bible walked and talked with God constantly, like he was a buddy constantly sending instant messages. But that was not the case at all. Very few OT "heroes" ever heard from God personally. And when they did, it was few and far between.
No wonder Abraham almost gave up Sarah to an Egyptian. Where was God? He hadn't heard from him in years. No wonder he got it on with Hagar. Where was God? He hadn't heard from him in years. No wonder he thought Ishmael was the promised son. Where was God? He hadn't heard from him in years.
And then I think of our packaged and commercialized American Christianity, which conditions us to expect to hear from God on a weekly, if not daily, basis. And I think of my own expectations of God - when I want him to say something - anything. But the testimony of the Bible (and my own experience) reminds me that these kinds of expectations are not conditioned by faith.
Faith is when we keep on obeying even when we don't hear from God. Faith is when we keep on following even when we can't see God. Faith, as someone once wrote with Abraham on her mind, is being sure of what we hope for and confident in what we don't see.
So, God, I know you're up there. I haven't heard from you in a while, and I guess that's ok. I just want you to know that I am going to try to keep being faithful to the whispers I heard a couple of years ago. I am going to try hard not to pawn Vanessa off or slice and dice any of my kids. And I suppose the only thing am going to expect from you is that you will be faithful too.