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Adagio—Long Journey to Presence (Part 1)

March 4, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Scripture—Genesis 12:5-7 (NRSV)

Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

Focus

The gods of the ancient era were regional; if you worshiped a Mesopotamian god you probably did not worship one from Egypt. Abraham traveled from Ur to Haran to Shechem and after some 900 miles, he found that the Lord was not relegated to regions. He cannot be contained by human borders or human hands. He showed Abraham that he was with him because he had already been there.

Devotion

In high school, I had a close friend. We were on the same wrestling team and competed against each other in our classes. One night I had a strange feeling at a basketball game as we stood watching our team (probably) lose—I got the sense that something was off. I asked him if he was ok; he told me everything was good. I mentioned to him that we could talk if he needed to, and he reassured me that everything was good. The next morning he took his life.

There was a lot of shuffling that occurred in my mind at that moment as I tried to reconcile our conversations—did I say or hear enough to know whether he had made a confession? The strangeness of it. “Black people don’t take their lives like this, do we?” Should I have expressed more, done more? I was dealing with my own realization that this world is tough and others will make it tough on you while wishing quite honestly that I could have traded places. He had so much more to offer.

Just like that, the ground shifted for all of us in school. He was well known and liked by everyone. It was winter now both literally and figuratively; it was a cold day of change. I began a pilgrimage of making sense of new questions that don’t get answered with dogma or ritual. But spring came and someone showed up saying in so many ways, “I am with you, because I’ve been there.”

Abraham had a family and was dwelling in a place and making the most of life as he knew it. We may love jazz and the dynamics in a good narrative but in life—in mine, in Abraham’s—disruption causes tension and you cannot fast forward or skip chapters.  God told Abraham (Genesis 12:1) to pack and go, telling him to travel from where he was familiar to a new place with new circumstances.

We have the benefit of hindsight but sometimes we forget the broad implications of when God changes things. Packing to leave town for an extended time is difficult enough. Moving the entire family to an unfamiliar place would be daunting at least. This isn’t the first time God moved things along. Genesis 11 gives us another lesson of “pack up your stuff and head out” after God’s presence at a building inspection of the Tower of Babel sent humanity out with confused languages. And now Abraham is headed without a whole lot of instruction. With a lot of people and possessions to encounter a place and a people (and a language) that he has never seen before.

The gods of the ancient era were regional for the most part. If you worshiped a Mesopotamian god you probably did not worship one from Egypt, etc. Abraham traveled from Ur to Haran to Shechem and after some 900 miles found that the Lord was not relegated to regions. He cannot be contained by human borders or human hands. He showed Abraham that he was with him because he had already been there.

Do you hear the sound wandering through the land—the sound of God saying “I’m with you?” Does the idea of moving to a new place or new circumstance scare you? It would be nice to have the theophany experiences of Isaiah, or Moses in the cleft of the rock. But it is just as effective and sufficient that you recognize His presence in the new place that he calls you. Perhaps He is moving things where they need to be in order to move everything where it will be in glory. When God shuffles you from the known to the unknown, the Scriptures remind us that omnipresence is God’s character as much as a characteristic. Spring will come and it will not be difficult for God to show you that he is with you because he has been there.

Reflect

When was the last time you had to move (from an occupation, region, etc.)? What was that experience like for you?

What did you recognize about God’s presence in the process?

Act

Take some time to plot out all the moves you have made in your life. Where do you recognize that God’s presence told (or nudged) you to go? And where did you see God’s presence in the place you arrived?

Prayer

God, we are certain that in life’s journey we will have changes and disruptions and new opportunities. As we travel,  strengthen our minds and hearts to sing in thought and deed like the hymn writer:

Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

Thank you that you go before and with us all the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Pastoral Lifestyle of Abraham and his Family (Genesis 12:4-7)


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