Father Abraham

Since I was about thirteen years old, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Abraham of the Bible. That was the year my dad moved us out of the church I had grown up in, having been called “like Abraham, not knowing where he was going.” At first, I hated the patriarch if only for being the Biblical justification for the cause of my teenage angst.

But let’s face it, there are so many other reasons to hate Abraham. Who can forget that whole fiasco where he claimed his wife was his sister, thus bringing undeserved curses upon Pharaoh’s house? Coward. And what about when he slept with his servant because he had not produced an heir in the bajillion years he had been on earth? Creep. And if that wasn’t bad enough in its own right, he ended up treating the servant and the son she bore him like dirt. Jerk.

But there are a million reasons to love Abraham, as well. Like the way he steps up to the plate and rescues his idiot nephew from invading armies. And the way he bargains with God for the redemption of Sodom. Even though he lost that wager, it spoke volumes for the compassion in his heart. And of course, there is the famous story of that trek up Mt. Moriah when Abraham obediently prepared for the ultimate sacrifice, thus proving his devotion to the God who selected him to be the father of the Jewish faith.

Abraham has a crazy story of ups and downs, high points and low points, great triumph and great tragedy.

A story like mine.

Let’s be honest, it is hard to judge Abraham for his foolish mistakes when I make them just as often. (So perhaps I will not make a mistake so monumental that it causes war between nations for thousands of years to come, but if Abraham had known in advance the consequences of his actions, you can be certain he would not have taken them.)


So here is Abraham—a story I have returned to a thousand times. Abraham, who was called by God to leave his country, his people, and his father’s house to go to the land God would show him. Abraham, who believed a promise that would take years, decades, even centuries to come to fruition. Abraham, who followed God through the wilderness, trusting it would be the inheritance of the children who had not yet been born to him.

What I’ve realized through Abraham’s journey of lost and found, of victory and setbacks, is this: The people God calls do not find themselves magically at the finish line. More often than not, they find themselves wandering through the wilderness for years at a time.

Even Jesus had his wilderness season. He wandered in the desert for forty days. What was He doing there? It’s hard to tell. Obviously the God of the universe did not have to go on a journey to “find Himself” or His calling. He had the entirety of His human life mapped out already. So why would He take to wandering?

Maybe He just wanted to let us know the wilderness is an essential part of our stories. Maybe He wanted to remind us that He meets us in our deserts like He cannot on our mountaintops because we find Him only when we are not so distracted by the view.

God calls us all, like Abraham, to follow Him. Not knowing where we are going and clinging to a promise that seems tenuous at best, we obey. We stumble, we fall, we get back up and wipe the blood and dirt from our knees. And we continue on this journey of lostness and foundness,  walking through the wilderness hand-in-hand with the Creator.


a voice calls us out

The Tragic Life of Disobedient Sheep

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” ~John 10:27

Sometimes I think that verse should read a little more like this:

“My sheep hear my voice, and they know it, but still they choose to ignore me and go their own way.”

Because the actual version makes it sound too easy. Like maybe the sheep didn’t hesitate to follow the Shepherd’s voice. I wonder how many people can actually say, “I listened, I followed, The End.” Because I’m ashamed to say that it doesn’t always look that way for me. In fact, most times there’s a struggle before I finally give in. Generally the way this works for me is: I hear Him, I argue, I prolong the inevitable, I make myself miserable, then I finally say, “Okay, God, You win.”

But that’s not the way Jesus tells it.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

It’s that simple. Or, it should be.

You know, I often resent sheep analogies, because if there is one thing I’ve learned from befriending a family of farmers, it’s this: sheep are stupid. Whenever Jesus starts comparing His followers to a bunch of sheep, the only thing that comes to my mind is the story my friends told of a whole herd of sheep walking single file down a train track until they all got wiped out. Every. Single. One of them.

Come on, God, I’m not that bad… Am I?

Can I make a confession here? Sometimes I’d rather not follow the Shepherd. Sometimes I’d rather do my own thing. Because sometimes what God asks of me is not what I would choose for myself. And sometimes His instructions don’t seem to make sense. And sometimes the path He leads me down is dark and scary and painful and no-really-you-would-not-believe-how-much-this-hurts hard.

And so I hesitate, like the silly sheep that I am, lingering a little longer in this place because I prefer it to the unknown journey that lies ahead. And I choose my own path. And I stay right between the lines, not even bothering to wonder what is making that strange whistling noise up ahead.

And you’d think I’d come to my senses when those before me start getting thrown from the tracks. You’d think the train barreling toward me might be enough to make me flee from my path. And sometimes it is. Sometimes that’s what it takes to send me running back to the Shepherd’s arms. But sometimes I’m prone to travel the path of destruction because that’s what happens to stupid sheep that wander off on their own.

But the sheep that follow even when they’d rather not…

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” ~John 10:27-28

I think those sheep have a much better ending, and I think it’s the ending I want for myself. So I’ll choose to follow. Even when I think I know better. Even when I’d rather stay behind or make my own way.

Because when I hear that voice, I know it is ultimately leading me into the place that is best for me. And why should I argue with that?

walking on train tracks

A God Who Says “Come”

I was always the kind of babysitter who was right in the middle of all the action. I considered my job to be not just watching the kids, but entertaining them as well. I bounced up and down on the trampoline, dressed in all kinds of get-ups, and danced around to the High School Musical soundtrack (which I probably have memorized by now, though I’ve only seen the actual movie once). I have the same approach with the youth group I now help with. I figure that the best way to encourage group participation is not to say, “go,” but “come.”

Let me tell you, I’m glad I serve the kind of God who says, “Come.” What a comfort it is to know that when God calls me to step out, He is not asking me to go alone; He’s inviting me to join Him on the adventure of a lifetime.

“Rebekah,” He says. “Come to Virginia with Me. Leave behind the home you’ve always known, and embark on this amazing journey alongside Me.” And though I told all my friends I was going to Virginia, I was truly following my Beloved into the great unknown.

It was frightening at first, to leave everything I’d ever known and follow God to this place. It’s always a little unnerving when He first guides me into something new. And if He had called me to “go”, it would perhaps have been impossible; but as I’ve already said, my God calls me to “Come” (which is much easier.)

So I encourage you to not be afraid to accept His outstretched hand. The place to where He calls you is not as frightening as it may seem. Not when the Author of Life stands by your side. The next time you hear Him calling,  don’t hesitate,  and don’t turn away. “My child,” He whispers, “Come.”