by Tiffany C. Chaney

“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him;” (Genesis 12:4)

As I read Abram’s call story in Genesis 12:1-9, I am reminded that we discern as we go. Discernment is a process, one often filled with unexpected detours that can take us into unfamiliar territory. We don’t stay stationary in life waiting to hear from God. Instead, we engage in a fluid process of listening and moving at the same time.

When Abram heard from God, he didn’t hear much to start. He knew God was going to bless him. God promised him blessing but that was just about it. God told him, “Go to the land I will show you.”

Out on a limb

Imagine God telling you to get a moving truck, pack up all your stuff and your family, and start driving, not knowing where you are going. Would you do it? Would you have the faith to believe God, even if God didn’t tell you exactly what was going to happen?

Abram did. He obeyed God and went even though he didn’t know where he was going. He was willing to trust God beyond where he could see. Abram had to follow God with an implicit faith and take God’s word for it that indeed there would be blessing at the end of this journey. Would we have that faith?

When God called Abram, he was on his family’s land, a place familiar to him. He likely had friends there. He knew where to go for the things he needed. He had many possessions. And what does God do? Ask him to leave. Walk away from his home, his family, his friends and go. Go where? He didn’t have a clue because God didn’t tell him. He didn’t know if he would recognize anybody there.

Would you go? Would you have faith to follow God even if it meant leaving everything familiar to you? Would you leave your friends and family? Would you leave the job that pays the bills? Would you go? Abram did.

The text says, “So Abram went.” This was perhaps the biggest risk of all but Abram could not stay in the same place with the same people and expect to get where God was trying to take him. Will we have faith to follow God even if we have to go to unfamiliar places?

Oftentimes, we struggle in our discernment because we try to understand the whole plan before we move forward. We want to know every little detail. Where are we going? How long will it take? Will I know anybody? What are they going to ask me to do? Will I have everything I need? Who else is going? What will I miss out on if I go? What if I fail? What if I succeed and don’t know what to do next?

We want to know all the answers before we will go where God is trying to send us but the reality is most times we have to move our feet before we can see the next step. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” We have to believe the promises of God enough to go where God leads us even if it is unspecific and unfamiliar.

Keep going

The journey of life is tough. It is for us and it was for Abram. If you continue reading Abram’s story, you’ll see it wasn’t long before he had trouble on the road. But one thing remained true. He didn’t give up. Sure, Abram could have turned back. He could have gone back to the place where he knew everything and everybody, where he knew what to expect, where everything was familiar. He didn’t. He stayed the course. He listened to God. He kept going.

If Abram hadn’t been willing to obey the command of God, the whole landscape of biblical history would have been different. Abram had no way of knowing at the beginning of his journey just how important he was to the plan of God.

We, too, are important to God’s plan. God calls us to participate in fulfilling God’s mission in different ways. If we stay home because we are afraid of ambiguity, we miss out on the opportunity to be used by God to fulfill God’s mission in the world.

In the middle of all the ambiguity that comes with discernment, know that God is with you, God is leading you, God loves you. Even if you mess up, God can pick you up, dust you off, and put you back on the right journey. Keep going.

Discussion questions

1. Has there ever been a time in your life where you felt led to try something new that was unfamiliar to you? How did you handle it?
2. What faith stories in the Bible inspire you? Do you make a point to remember them when you are facing uncertainty in your life?
3. What step in your life do you feel led to make today even if it is uncomfortable, even if you do not know where you will go from there?

Closing prayer

Gracious God, life is often filled with twists and turns around which we cannot see. As you lead us, give us courage to take the next step even if it is uncomfortable, remind us we are not alone, and help us feel your love even in those times when we struggle to hear your voice. Amen.

The Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney is pastor/mission developer of The Intersection, a congregation under development of the Evangelical Church in America, located in Dorchester, Mass.

This issue of Café was sponsored by the women of United Lutheran Church, Oak Park, Il.

This group has a number of active programs in the church and in the local community. Every year they hold a Cookie Walk to fund some of their ministries. Their donation of $400 to Cafe will go to offset the cost of paying a young adult woman in ministry for her writing. You can learn more about this bold group of women from their website.

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Pictured from the left: Lily Finn, Annette Finn and Ruth Prescott. It was Annette’s idea to share some of the proceeds with Cafe. Photo by Elizabeth McBride.