Archive for June, 2014

A Moving Experience (1)–Now We Know

“…Abraham [and Sarah]…went out without knowing where [they] were going.” Hebrews 11:8

About six months ago my wife and I decided to relocate to Las Vegas, Nevada. I served churches there for a total of twelve years. [Yes, “Sin City” has many churches of “all sorts and conditions”.] Two of our children and all five of our grandchildren live there. Since I retired three years ago, we’ve made that drive (four hours each way from our home in north-central AZ) at least twice a month. We were wearing out the road and ourselves. The solution turned out to be to put ourselves close enough to participate more fully in our growing grandchildren’s lives. (They are, FYI, the top 5 most amazing grandchildren ever. But all of yours are also in the top 5. Don’t even try to do the math!) Our journey to that new home has followed a longer, twistier road than we’d ever imagined. The nasal/whiny voice from the back seat kept asking “Are we there yet?”, and our consistent response was a desperately prayerful, “Not yet. But we’re getting closer.”

Dianna and I are experienced movers. Her family moved every year or two while she was growing up. That experience equipped her well to marry a United Methodist pastor-to-be. My 40+ years of active ministry included more than a dozen job-related moves.  We are grizzled veterans of the Moving Wars. Every move has brought its own surprises. But this time we’ve felt a special kinship with Abraham and his journey. (See Genesis 12-25)  One of his spiritual descendants wrote that Abraham “…went out without knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8 NRSV) That’s precisely how it was for us. No bishop had decreed and whispered in God’s ear our itinerary and final destination. “By faith…” we went out, “without knowing where…”

“Are we there yet?” The voice grew more and more strident. Our quest grew more and more complex. We looked at more homes in more places than in any move in almost thirty years. We encountered folks with hidden (and not-so-hidden) agendas well beyond simple real estate transactions. Two months ago we thought we understood the timeline. So we stored about 80% of our possessions anticipating we’d see everything again about now. We were wrong. So far all we’ve seen of those things is the monthly storage bill.

A few days ago we came to the city once more. We went out with our real estate agent (who’s become a friend) thinking we knew where we were going. Recently the price had dropped on a house we thought could be a good fit. Turned out the price was so reasonable because the house in the flesh was such a poor imitation of its online pictures and promises. We were disappointed but not surprised. We regrouped and turned to a home that had been on our radar. We’d more or less concluded it wasn’t right for us. Turned out it was. Within 24 hours we had a deal. NOW WE KNOW the where, what, and when of our new home.

“By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going.” (Heb. 11:8 MSG) We set out appallingly clueless about where we were going. We considered some seriously “out-of-the-box” options.  Family, friends, economics, and reflecting time on those long back-and-forth drives helped focus our search and clarify our needs and wants. But the crucial part of this journey was the act of saying Yes. It was the step beyond talking, “blue-skying”, and “what if-ing” to doing something. “Faith” goes far beyond simply believing “six impossible things before breakfast”. “An act of faith” chooses to embrace those counter-cultural, counter-intuitive beliefs and allow them to shape our life. The Message translation makes that very clear. Most translations render the roll call of faith heroes in Hebrews 11 with the refrain “by faith…”. The Message’s refrain is “by an act of faith…”. Faith isn’t faith until it’s shaping your life.

Our journey has raised all sorts of spiritual issues, not unlike the issues that confronted Abraham. What’s God’s will and how do we know it? Was our future home predetermined from the beginning in some heavenly script ? Or was it just the best choice available after our unsuccessful attempts to buy the other places we thought were “The One”? Our journey has also included numerous encounters with greed, idolatry, and assorted sin, and also with good and helpful people simply trying to do their best and be helpful. Perhaps we’ll address some of these issues in future posts.

Dianna and I are hardly the only folks “going out without knowing where….” Life shoves us out the door onto the road to somewhere more often than we care to admit. Here’s a prayer for all pilgrims who don’t know the GPS coordinates of their destination:

“Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Traditional prayer quoted by David Lose in Preaching at the Crossroads)


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