In whatever way someone’s life tells the truth, his story belongs to us all—because someplace in our own life that same truth is telling itself as well.
He was born about 4,000 years ago, in Ur of the Chaldees. Mesopotamia was flourishing near the apex of her power. Ur was a highly literate city of wealth and sophistication about 220 miles Southeast of present-day Baghdad. His culture was pagan. His father, Terah, trafficked in idols. From earliest childhood the worship of Nannar and Ishtar filled Abraham’s sight and rang in his ears.
Abraham’s story begins like our own, for he was born into the same darkness of confusion and mystery that we all are: not knowing who God is or what He is like. Like us, he was born into a local perspective held in common by those around him, whose alignment with reality he had no way to judge. But all of this changed when The Summons came.
The word of God came to find Abraham where he was—to bring him out of his cultural assumptions laced with pagan error into the reality of a personal relationship with The One True God Who was calling him.
Muslims, Christians, Jews—some know him as Ibrahim, others call him Avraham—but all three religions know him as “the friend of God”. Our mutual persuasion that it was possible for this man to have a real relationship with God has flowed from antiquity, shaping the faith landscape of mankind ever since.
Muslims, Christians, and Jews—we agree on two truths that Abraham’s story tells.
- That he came out of pagan error into actual acquaintance with The One God,
- And that he was called to leave his people for good, directed by God to the blessed land
That we understand these truths differently might be expected, but have we ever seen the staggering implication of what we hold in common? In unison we affirm Abraham’s faith, obedience, and personal relationship with God.
But have we forgotten where he began, and what that tells us?
Are we meant to extoll him for where he ended up, or take a closer look at what brought him from where he was to where he was meant-to-be?
When we consider Abraham’s story, do we hear the truth it tells—understanding that the truth his story tells is also being told in our own? If a summons brought Abraham from where he was to where he was meant-to-be, somewhere in our own life The Summons is coming as well.
Because of The Summons, we need not remain bound to or the victim of the perspective we were born into.
* * *
The word of God comes to find us
Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing. . .
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
The Summons pierces through the obscurity of ancient Mesopotamia to bring Abraham out of his father’s house to a land he does not know, out of childlessness into the fatherhood of nations, out of anonymity into the destiny of a name made great, out of inconsequence into the indispensable blessing he is meant-to-be.
But we err if we think it was easy to leave everything familiar to go to a place he did not know. Only after the death of his brother, and his father’s decision to leave Ur, did Abraham leave with his father Terah in the lead.
When The Summons comes,
it often comes as an interruption or in a sudden end.
Very often it comes in a painful event: in the blow of a staggering loss, in a wrenching diagnosis, in a discovery that makes the bottom of our life drop out. These are not the call, but they strip us of the deceptive ease that keeps us from responding to our call.
When we are fighting to survive our focus narrows, we strip down to the essential, and we gain the clarity to pick up on the strong notes of The Summons that is calling us to where we are meant-to-be.
Sometimes our resistance to change (to leave the comfortable, happy, familiar and known) is so strong that it takes a tsunami to sweep away life-as-we’ve-known-it, giving us no option but to go forward. This is OK. Things happen for a reason. Move forward. Listen. You are being led. Perpetually looking back, grieving over what you’ve lost will freeze you into a pillar of salt: a perpetual lifeless warning of what happens to those who choose the far less of where they were over the far greater of what they might have become.
When the waves pound you with fear, listen! Put together the pieces of the puzzle that have already been given to you. That message is deeper, calmer, surer than the shriek of the storm. You will hear The Summons calling you to where you are meant-to-go.
The Summons will give you victory over the hardest things that happen to you, honoring them by giving them a purpose, which always makes what you suffered worth it. But you have to get from where you are to where you are meant-to-be. In order to achieve this, The Summons has to find you.
The Summons finds you, when it records itself in you. You hear it. How many times have you said something to someone, and watched your words fall on deaf ears to have no effect? Your message has not found them. We only hear what registers in us, having found its target in us.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see. . .
A personal, intimate Summons pierces through our obscurity to find us—to bring us from where we are to where we are meant-to-be. But there is a vast difference between our being sought and our being found. . .
I remember learning about reincarnation as a child. It was part of the culture I was raised in. I don’t remember the words my Mother used as she shared her beliefs, but I remember her eyes: soft and brown and sure, loving and alive. It was easy for me believe as she did, because she was so very much at home in what she believed—her questions finding their answers in the Theosophy that she favored.
One rainy Saturday afternoon, long after I was grown and gone, my mom and Dad drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to a small shop famous for its model trains. Daddy wanted a locomotive with real lights that would shine, as it tugged his model train along its track. Mom stayed in the car, while Daddy shopped inside.
Waiting warm and content, sheltered from the cold and rain outside, Mom noticed the church with its little cemetery across the street. As an artist, she was taken by the charm of the old structure with the tilted headstones in its quiet yard on a busy street. In the middle of the churchyard stood a large wooden cross. My mother remembers that it was the first time the sight of a cross did not fill her with revulsion. It was close to Easter. Someone had lowered a crown of thorns down the upright, so that it rested where the crossbar met. And hanging from the crossbar was a plaque with something written on it. Leaning forward, squinting through the rain, my mother read the words.
“Is it as nothing to you,
All you who pass by?”
My mother’s heart lurched, she felt stung. As if her heart was breaking, something gave away; and with inconsolable tears, she plunged into a depth of forlornness she could not understand. She was being made homesick for a place she did not know, but where she was meant-to-be.
It wasn’t the first time, it wasn’t the last, that The Summons would slice through my mother’s obscurity to seek her. But there is a difference between our being sought and our being found. On that rainy cold day in Lancaster she was being sought, but it would be years before she was found.
* * *
Lord, I don’t want to stay where I am just because it feels comfortable. Don’t give up on me. I need, I want Your ongoing summons to take precedence over every place I dwell in error. You know where I self-indulge in the all too familiar culture of my Ur of the Chaldees. Do whatever it takes to put the steel in my spine that I get up and walk out forever. Spare me from pouring myself into the inertness of religious thinking that is deader than dead, lifeless as an idol, giving me nothing in return, even when it is presumably “Christian”. You give me Abraham, not so I will try to model myself after him, but that I will want a relationship like the one that lived and breathed between the two of you. Nothing short of relationship, Lord! Summon me! He did not know the land to which You were taking him, neither do I. But I can know You, and that gives strength for the journey.
Thread Your Summons to me each and every day… How I love it when You lead and respond and answer! Even when it is in correction! There are so many places in my life where I know I am not where I need to be. But in You I do not have to live beneath what You call me to. Summon me! Keep me. Peel away anything that would keep me from hearing The Summons with which You call me to Yourself, with which You call me to who and to where I am meant-to-be.