Updated: Jul 14
“Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you.” Even far removed from the reality of Abram, this command sounds like a difficult thing to do. There are few things that I dislike more than moving—I know, I, too, find it ironic that one called to a life of itinerant ministry dislikes moving. Moving is not something I experienced growing up—my parents have lived in the same house in Brazil since 1978. My first experience moving to a new place came in the Spring of 2001. I was off to college in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and all my belongings could fit in a single backpack and a suitcase. So, packed with enough clothes, books, pictures, and mementos to fill a whole dresser drawer, I got on a plane and moved to a new country. My journey was nothing like the journey of Abram and Sarai. I knew exactly where I was going. I knew how long I was going to stay—and at that time, I had plans to return. I also didn't hear a voice from God telling me to go—as a matter of fact, as a teenager, I would have preferred to stay put. Moving to the United States was a priceless opportunity, but leaving home was hard. Have you ever had to leave behind all that you knew and cared about?
In our American culture, relocating is not a strange phenomenon. Some of us know what it feels like to move to a new place for school, work, family, or in search of a new start. Others know the experience of losing possessions or relationships and needing to start again in a new place. Still, others know what it means to answer an external call to go to an unknown or different place. No matter the circumstances of the move, there is a toll that comes with the task. There is a physical, spiritual, and emotional heaviness that can take root in the life of those who must leave all that they know in search of something new. For, as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz recites, “There's no place like home.”
Home truly matters, but we cannot become disconnected from the reality that God’s invitation to Abram and, consequently, his household was an invitation to journey outside the social, financial, and spiritual safety they knew and enjoyed. For all the challenges we may find with the concept of home, as one of our members wrote, “Home is the place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in." And when we move outside of that space, we no longer have the luxury of relying on things that were once normative. We have to develop new patterns and understandings. For Abram and his family, this was a shift from self-reliance to trust in God. From expected routine to unexpected surprises. From generational stability to future hope while transversing the unknown.
While many regularly sum up the courage to “leave” or find themselves in a situation where they simply must go, it is hard to navigate the unknown. My therapist often tells me that people can’t fear the unknown and that what people truly fear is change. I don’t necessarily agree with that statement, but regardless of my agreement, journeying through uncertain times requires an ability to cope with that which lies beyond our knowledge and control. Our faith invites us to do this work by letting go of our need to arrange outcomes for all life situations, while at the same time actively working for the transformation of the world.
The call of God to Abram was indeed a call to faith, but not for the sake of self but for the good of all creation. God’s promise of blessings was not conditional, but neither was it selfish. Abram was invited to step outside the norms of the time and become a vessel through which God could bless the world. We have to remember that Abram was a product of his time. The member of a household who worshipped other gods (Joshua 24:2-4). And in some ways, like us, he lived a life bound by the social and cultural norms around him. Some of you may know what it feels like to be different in a world of sameness; to express an opinion contrary to the majority; to speak of peace in a time of war; to offer grace when others seek retribution; to seek inclusion in a world of division; to pursue communal justice and equity in a culture that loves individual privilege. Our resolve to move forward on any of these things must be a step of faith—for the outcomes are always beyond our control. It may be easy to live a life of indistinguishable distinction, where we do, say, and act like all others around us and perpetuate the cycles of oppression, unfaithfulness, and pain. Though it may be difficult, it’s always rewarding to work in cooperation with God for the redemption of creation.
This work of redemption can take place wherever we find ourselves. Though some of us have been called to leave our land, family, and household, God’s invitation for all of us is to take a new mindset wherever we may be. The invitation to trust God’s call is not limited to those who must pick up their belonging and move away. God calls all of us to a life of love, meaning, and connection. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds us, “...the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, ‘Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.’ If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift” (Romans 4:2-5, MSG).
The most challenging thing I find, in the story of Abram is that we are never given a reason for why Abram obeyed. Of course, you could say, “God told him to go,” or find a million other explanations based on conjecture. But at the end of the day, we do not know. We can only assume that something touched his heart and moved deep within him, causing him to imagine that there must have been more than his provincial life.
Wherever you find yourself today—whether discerning, leaving, left, or seeking a new home, God invites you to place your full trust in him. God calls you to find your true home in the life-giving love of Christ and to journey with others through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a call to faith, relationship, support, and accountability.
Remember, even when we do not know where we are going, our Trinue God walks with us.
Thanks be to God.
Young Jefferson Leaving Home
February 2001 marked the beginning of my journey to the United States. Leaving behind family, friends, and all I once knew, I moved forward in faith to pursue a college degree at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Leaving home was not an easy task. Life abroad called for the adoption of a new mindset and willingness to adapt to unknown realities.
Today when I think about home, my mind races in separate directions. One direction has my mind flying back to the home of my childhood and the people who first taught me about life, love, and faith. At the same time, part of my mind flies not to another location but to a people—my wife and daughters—the people with who I actively practice life, love, and faith.