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I’ve always loved the story of Abraham and Sarah. This couple who has run out of options in realizing their dreams who are bowled over by the crazy wild love and transformative call of God. They’re at the end of their rope: old, no children, they seem to have failed at what was considered to be of utmost importance in the ancient world. They have no progeny. They will leave no legacy.
Somehow they’ve met the God of the Bible in their life in and around the desert. They’ve drawn so close to God and that same living God has come so close to them that it’s as if they have heard the divine voice whisper wisdom, vocation and love to them.
Their story is loaded with details and also absent of specifics. When did they first encounter this God that they seem to trust so blindly? Who told them of that God? What made them trust that God? I wonder about all of those specifics, but the story focuses on the speaking of God – calling to them – inviting them to a new life, a wider hope, to stretch their worldview. The focus in the story is on how God speaks and how they respond. It echoes the two story of creation (Genesis 1 & 2) in which God speaks life into being and that life responds by multiplying and joining in the divine dance that is underneath all of creation, moving the entire universe towards the purpose for which God made it.
Something takes place in that conversation. They realize that they don’t know all there is to know. Life is wider, deeper and more than both what they have already tasted and what they can imagine. And so they go, the move ahead, they walk the way that God shows them. And for that step (or leap) of faith they are blessed, not for themselves, but that they might pay it forward. They are to being a blessing to all they encounter on the incredibly circuitous and adventurous path they begin traveling which they undoubtedly thought would be short and direct. Over and over they misunderstand. They only see as far as they can see. They laugh at God’s crazy promises that seem impossible, overly extravagant, unimaginable. And yet they keep walking where God leads them. They keep talking with God. They keep blessing, paying God’s love forward as they journey through life and a strange land.
I’ve always felt it as a story that is underneath my own. A journey imagined but impossible to foretell. A trusting-in-God that ends in an unhoped-for transformation into something more, beyond imagination, wholer than whole, nearly complete but not yet there. It’s not hard to imagine how the ancients would have told Abraham and Sarah’s story by firelight at night (before the Bible was written down) to give hope, and courage to each other.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation