As far as I can tell, God is a being of few words. God speaks to people on a need-to-know basis and doesn’t seem interested in providing all the details to us humans when God leads us somewhere. Jesus was notorious for saying simply “Follow me.” I’m guessing that Jesus himself didn’t get a lot of detail when God told him to head into Jerusalem. I think God has always been this way.
When God told Abram to leave Haran and head toward Canaan, there were precious few details, and no road map. The first sentence in Genesis chapter 12 pretty much sums it up: The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”
God promised that He would make Abram a blessing to all of the people on earth, but God didn’t really provide any further details. And apparently Abram wasn’t the kind of guy to worry about such things, because verse 4 simply says, “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him.”
Of course, we all know the rest of the story. Abram went where God led, grew old, had his name changed to Abraham, had a couple of kids, became the patriarch of three of the world’s great religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity), yada, yada, yada.
So here’s the thing. Would you have packed up and left, if you were in Abram’s shoes?
Obedient faith isn’t as easy as it sounds. And I’m sure all Abram’s neighbors thought he’d lost his mind.
In Matthew 19 and in Mark 10, we find the story of a rich young man who really wants to be seen as obedient and faithful. He asks Jesus what he has to do to gain eternal life. Jesus of course tells him to obey all the commandments, and the young guy proudly states that he has always done that, since he was a child. Then Jesus tells him, “Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
That particular young man couldn’t bring himself to do that. He couldn’t leave everything behind and go where God was leading.
So again, I ask: Would you have sold everything you own and followed Jesus, if you were in this young man’s shoes?
Obedient faith is appealing on some level, but downright terrifying on another.
For the past six months or so, my husband and I kept getting the feeling that we were being called by God to make a huge change in our lifestyle. The “sell everything you own and follow me” verse kept popping up whenever either of us read the Bible, spoke with other people, or even watched TV. It was getting kind of annoying, to be honest. I felt like I was being hit over the head with a 2 x 4.
So we did it.
In truth, we didn’t sell everything we owned. We gave it away.
Actually, we did keep a few things – books, some clothes, pots and pans, family photos, our bedroom furniture. But in May, we gave away about 75% of our possessions, put our house up for sale and moved from Scottsdale, to a tiny rural town in southeastern Arizona called Sonoita. When I say tiny and rural, I mean it’s really a spot where two roads happen to cross, halfway between Tucson and the border of Mexico. There are more cows than people here.
God told us to move here and operate The Oasis Renewal Center, a small Christian retreat center. There really is no other way to explain it! God didn’t give Abram any details, and God didn’t give us any either, other than telling us to go.
My husband says it’s like the difference between Mapquest and GPS. With Mapquest you can see your entire route from point A to point B before you even leave, with all of the minuscule details of the trip highlighted. Some of those details crack me up: Turn left out of your driveway and proceed to the corner of your street, before taking a right on Main Street. Really?
God operates more like GPS. With GPS you don’t get the complete picture ahead of time. All you get is a disembodied voice that suddenly says, “In 500 feet, turn left.” That might be helpful if I knew how far 500 feet actually was. Inevitably, the next thing I hear is “Recalculating. Make a U-turn, then turn right in 100 feet.”
I have to say that on one level, being obedient and faithful and going where God is leading has been enormously gratifying and very freeing. I love the view of the surrounding mountains, the stunning sunsets, the hummingbird that nests by our front door, and the complete and utter lack of traffic. God is present here, and I am constantly amazed at how clearly I can hear the Holy Spirit speak in the silence of our back patio. We have been given the opportunity to welcome people into our home and allow them the chance to relax and connect with God. It is both very humbling and an honor at the same time.
On another level it has been downright terrifying, and a true test of patience. The house we live in now has no closets, and is much smaller than our old house. The monsoon rains arrived with a vengeance, soaking all the boxes we had temporarily stored in our garage. Apparently the rain affects satellite internet transmission, so our internet coverage is sporadic, at best. I still can’t find my hairbrush, and I’m not sure if it got packed or given away. And lots of people we left behind in Scottsdale think we lost our minds.
Nevertheless, we clearly heard God telling us to move to Sonoita and open a retreat center. And so far, we have not heard, “Recalculating. Make a U-turn…”