And the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your land and your birthplace and your father’s house to the land I will show you.”
When I was twelve years old, my father decided to move our family from the city I had grown up in, to another city, in another state. I was devastated. Never mind that there were serious family problems afoot, I wasn’t going, I told my parents. But we went—“went forth”—into the unknown.
Reading this passage about Abraham’s call and subsequent journey away from his homeland, I remembered my father and thought for the first time how wrenching it must have been for him to make that decision to leave home and friends, and take us into a whole new world. Maybe my father was strengthened by an inner conviction that, hard as it was, the time had come to “go forth.”
That is what Abram apparently felt, as he uprooted his entire family and set off for what we blithely refer to as “The Promised Land,” but which was the vast unknown to Abram. He trusted God to show him where to go and how to get there.
Naomi Rosenblatt speculates that Abram, at age 75, was restless, childless, and wealthy, and may have been looking for an alternative to the life he had chosen—a life that was luxurious but ultimately unfulfilling. In the midst of that searching and yearning, God spoke to him.
“His midlife crisis is a familiar phenomenon, but his response to it is not. Abraham has the maturity to seek a higher goal than romance, adventure, and personal glory,” Rosenblatt writes in Wrestling with Angels.
Abram says no to the status quo and sets out on a journey that requires risk, courage, and faith. Abram, as the author of Genesis so brilliantly portrays him, is very human. He is not always sure of himself, he makes some bad decisions, and he questions God more than once. But he has a lifelong relationship with God, and when he hears God say, “Go Forth,” he does.
This story teaches me to listen carefully when God may be calling me to go forth, at any age or stage of life—from a job, an unhealthy relationship, an addiction. It also helps me to understand, and to honor, the faith and courage it took for my father to “go forth” and create a new life for our family.
LORD, help me to listen carefully, to trust deeply, and to go forth without fear. Amen.
Copyright © 2010 Margaret Jones.