2nd Week of Lent
It seems that the older I get the more life decisions I am faced with making. When I was younger my life decisions included what was I going to be when I grew up? Or, what college would I attend in order to pursue my chosen career path. At that time those decisions seemed fairly major to me but looking back on that now they don’t hold the same weight as they use to; at least not in comparison to my current major life decisions. I mean I could have gone to any number of really good colleges to pursue what I thought I had wanted to do for the rest of my life. And seeing as though my career path seems to keep changing on me every few years, the life decision about that I made as a teenager certainly seems less important. In the last few years, however, I have come to find that the life decisions I face now seem much more major then those of the past. And in conversations I have had with friends, I have come to hear that I am not alone in that realization. The major life decisions that we all face may not be the same for everyone, but they are all major to us none the less. For some a major life decision could be whether to change careers at this point in life? Another might be, do I up and move my family from the life we have become accustom to something completely different? Still another, should my significant other and I expand our family or are we happy and content with the way it is? And the list could go on and on. While the decisions themselves may not be the same, what does seem to be consistent across the board is that these life decisions are getting harder and harder to make, leaving us wondering how in the world do we go about making these decisions. I mean it’s not like we have some magic formula in which we can plug in our situation and the decision we are facing, and we will automatically be given the right answer.
While it is most certainly true that our major life decisions do not just get made for us, that doesn’t mean that we are alone in making them, however. Take for instance our ancestor in faith Abraham. Most of us probably know his story fairly well. How he and his wife Sarah were called by God to leave the land they had been living in to move to a new land and that they would be blessed in becoming a great nation;[i] a nation that would all start with the birth of their own child, despite the fact that up until this point in their long lives they had been unable to conceive a child.[ii] And lo and behold, God did in deed come through with that promise; Abraham and Sarah did indeed conceive and bear a child together,[iii] and from that child and his subsequent heirs (Isaac, Jacob, Judah, etc.)came the great nation of Israel which then was led, many generations later, to the land God had originally promised to Abraham, the land of Canaan.[iv]
Now, many point to Abraham as a pillar of our faith, one who trusted God no matter what and God blessed him through and through. But what we often forget, is that in the midst of the life changing, major decisions that Abraham had to face, he too had his doubts and fears about how it would all turn out or, I am sure, whether he had even made the right decision to leave what he had known in the first place. In the Old Testament lesson for the Second Sunday in Lent we hear Abraham, at this point still called Abram,[v] ask God, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? … You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”[vi] Despite Abraham’s apprehension and fear, however, God reminded him that he has not been, nor will he be alone in his decisions and in the results that come from them. And it was through that reassurance from God that Abraham was still able to believe in God’s promise despite his doubts and fears. [vii]
In the face of our own life changing, major decisions it may be tempting to chide ourselves that we just need to trust God that everything will work out and that there is no place for our doubts and fears since we are supposed to be people of faith. This, however, is not the message we receive from Scripture, especially not from the story of our faith ancestor Abraham. Through the doubt and fear we see in Abraham, we find that in God’s eyes these are perfectly normal and even acceptable feelings for us to have. The fact is, my friends, that their will always be hardships in the midst of all our major life decisions that cause us to doubt and to fear; these decisions will not be easy. This was no different for Abraham than it is for us. God reminds Abraham that even when his promise of bringing them to the promised land has come to fruition, his people will still face hardships; they will be “aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years.”[viii] I don’t know about you, but if I had been Abraham after hearing this I don’t think I would want to continue in the decision that had been made to leave what was known and comfortable and move to what is unknown and filled with what will inevitably be generations of hardship. But Abraham continued on, mainly in part because of what God shows Abraham at the end of this assigned text from Genesis. Chapter 15 verse 17 says, “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces (see Genesis 15:9-10).” What this says to me is that in the midst of darkness and brokenness, God our light and our life will be there in the midst of us.
Brothers and sisters in faith, we all face major life decisions throughout our lives; this is just another part of life. With each new life decision that comes, it seems to be a more difficult one to make then the last one. These life decisions certainly have the ability to produce in us doubts and fears, which is perfectly normal and understandable. And no matter what the decision that we face is, no one can make that decision for us. But that doesn’t mean we are alone in the decision-making process. God is there in the midst of us, even in the darkest most difficult times, showing us his light and his life. God will see us through that decision we make, what ever the decision we make is. It may not be as easy as it sounded for Abraham where it appears God is talking directly to him, but God does speak to us in various other ways. Through a calming presence in the silence of our prayers, through discussions with trusted friends, and in partnership with the loved ones God has given us to walk through life with; these, plus many others, are all ways God talks to us, reassuring us that even when it comes to the hardest decisions God is in the midst of them with us. We are never alone.
i. Genesis 12:1-2, (NRSV).
ii. Genesis 11:30, (NRSV).
iii. Genesis 21:1-7, (NRSV).
iv. Joshua 1-5, (NRSV).
v. It is not until Genesis 17:5 that God changes his name from Abram to Abraham.
vi. Genesis 15:2-3, (NRSV).
vii. Genesis 15:5-6, (NRSV).
viii. Genesis 15:13, (NRSV).