1 After these events, the Lord’s word came to Abram in a vision, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector. Your reward will be very great.”
2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children? The head of my household is Eliezer, a man from Damascus.” 3 He continued, “Since you haven’t given me any children, the head of my household will be my heir.”
4 The Lord’s word came immediately to him, “This man will not be your heir. Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child.” 5 Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them.” He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” 6 Abram trusted the Lord, and the Lord recognized Abram’s high moral character.
Genesis 15:1-6 CEB
-Rev. Melissa Fain-
So you have to be careful when you get “facts” from the internet. For example, Pinterest will often give suggestions on how to organize or do things. These time saving measures often add time to the job. Either that, or you end up with a really hilarious Pinterest Fail.
And you’ve all seen quotes with an image of some famous person having said it? You have to make sure those people actually said those quotes, because sometimes, they didn’t. While I could easily pull up a fake MLK or Gandhi quote (because they are all over the place), I love this ludicrous one where there is a picture of Jean Luc Picard saying “Use the force, Harry,” and the attributed to Gandalf. That one was made obvious as a joke, but there are people who want to trick you into believing something that isn’t true.
Then there are times when something becomes so widespread, we don’t know it’s false. I’ve seen this one image so many times and in so many ways. It suggests that “Do not be afraid,” is found 365 times in the bible. Now, I can just look at that and know it’s false. Why? You tell me you wouldn’t see a million devotionals and daily calendars all over Hallmark, Dayspring, and Mom and Pop bookstores if that phrase really was quoted in the bible 365 times? Marketers would be all over it! And even if we pretended marketers remained clueless of the potential payout of this magical phrase, it didn’t take much sleuthing to find people who did the homework for me. Even if you include other phrases, like “fear not,” the phrase only appears between 109-115 times. Well, it’s still good for a wall calendar, right?
It is an interesting phrase, though. It’s said often enough, it deserves our attention. “Don’t be afraid.” (Oh do I get fearful.) I’m currently reading a book called “Sacred Wounds: A Path to Healing from Spiritual Trauma.” It was written by Teresa Pasquale who is a therapist working with those suffering with PTSD, often the result of a church experience. She described three reactions of a wounded person. First is flight. There are those who run away when they see anything that resembles the thing that initially hurt them. Second is fight. There are those who bark and bite when they see anything that resembles the thing that initially hurt them. Finally, there’s freezing. She compared this to a deer caught in the headlights. The trauma is so desperate and real, we don’t know what to do, so we just freeze.
The Israelites often froze.
Abram, in this case, fought.
This is the middle of Abram, soon to be Abraham’s story. God painted such a pretty picture at first. Your heirs will be as numerous as the stars, and numerous as the grains of sand. At that point in time he didn’t know about the trials and tribulations that were headed his way. He didn’t know how long he would have to wait. His spouse was impatient. She led him in the wrong direction trying to get the promise fulfilled. I would fight too. The middle of journeys look like messes.
I should know: I organized my daughter’s books and puzzles a few weeks ago. After removing everything from the double ottoman, the living room looked more like a war zone than a place where people could relax. Puzzle pieces were everywhere. Books were stacked in similar shaped piles. Trash was surrounding everything, because my kids seem to think every piece of paper is worthy of saving. Looking over the destruction I had to remind myself, “This is part of the job. We are moving towards something better. Then everything began to take shape again. The pieces found their puzzles. (Well, most of them did.) The books made their way into the ottoman, and they all fit! When I finished, no one would need to know the living room blew up before it was put back together.
Then, I remember, two summers ago, I met my sister with my son in Cade’s Cove. We stayed for a couple of days. We camped, and we hiked. Kimberly decided the best hike for the three of us was Abram’s Falls. Now, at this point I hadn’t done that hike since college. Aeden had never walked that far before. At the beginning of the trail, he was excited to see a waterfall.
Now, remembering we still had to walk all the way back, we were a quarter of the way to the falls, and it starts. “How much longer?” “This is hard!” “Can we turn around now?” There were tears, and not all of them were from him. I sat him down and laid it out. Let’s continue, and when you are ready to turn around and head back, we will. If we do it before we get to the falls, you don’t get to see the falls." His attitude changed, and we made it all the way. He played in the water. We ate lunch, and the walk back was so much better than the walk there. The getting there was tough, but I think, for the most part, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Some of that is in knowing God often times doesn’t reveal everything all at once. Could you imagine Abram’s reaction if he received everything at the beginning? Stars in the sky and sands under his feet are great. Throw in Sodom and Gomorrah, Hagar and Ishmael, and the potential sacrifice of Isaac and it might have been too much for him. Who would have blamed him if he simply said, “I’m too old for this?”
I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: Are you willing to understand you only have the small picture. Our understanding is a crude cave drawing in comparison to God’s panoramic. Usually, when God has a plan, it requires sweat, tears, and pain. It’s messy. There are usually times when we look at what we got and wonder why we started to begin with. But, it’s the only way to reach the destination. We jump in, not because it’s fun or easy, but because it’s right. We build treasures that matter: Relationships, plans that will last generations beyond the people making them; those kinds of things. Treasures that have eternal rewards, not financial ones.
A friend of mine put it succinctly: Many today want to be the church of “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” and not the church of “carry the cross.” Crosses are heavy, and many come with a death sentence at the end. Scratch that, whether it’s a spiritual, physical, or another kind of death, carrying the cross always comes with a death sentence. It’s the only way to find new life, or (in relation to the church) you become a zombie church. No longer alive, and kinda not dead: Undead. It’s a church that attempts to be something it can no longer be, while becoming something that can bite out and hurt others. Not where God wants a church to be…
Don’t be afraid. Yeah, you might know more of the journey than Abram was aware of, but that darkness you see ahead is not the end. You can’t see as far as God.. That is merely the middle. You have to go through it to find that new light. And guess what? When you get to that darkness, it won’t feel as dark as it looks, because each of us are capable of shining God’s light, and where God’s light shines, the darkness cannot hide. You are not what you were. You never will be that ever again, but God knows what you could be. Go. Take the journey. Walk to that messy hard place. Don’t be afraid. God goes with you.