By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God…
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-19
I wander a lot.
In 2011, I visited 5 nations on 3 continents. I crossed the Atlantic and the Pacific in the space of a few days. I went by train, plane, and automobile.
I like traveling. I like being outside of America – I find it liberating. I feel freer to be myself.
Ironically, I think it’s because in a foreign country, I have a sense of anonymity.
My comfort zone, then, is to be rootless. It’s living in America that terrifies me.
The thing is, no matter where I go, I’m automatically slapped with an identity that doesn’t accurately define me. When I travel, I’m the American. When I’m in America, I’m the third culture kid.
I am both of these things, yes, but aren’t I more, too?
- Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there.
When I was ten years old, my parents packed my siblings and me up and took us to Kazakhstan, which no one could pronounce in Virginia, and which few can find on a map today. Being a child, I didn’t have much say in the matter – I just had to obey. I’m thankful that I had a good life in Kazakhstan, but I can’t say that I didn’t wonder what it would be like to live in America, nor that I didn’t wish I could.
Like me, Abram left his home in Ur because his father said so. Abram knew what it was like to pack up everything he owned to travel to a place he didn’t know. He knew what it meant to be a foreigner. His father had made the call to leave, and Abram had followed.
And when his father died, Abram received his inheritance and became the head of his family. Life was good. Life was settled. Life was stable.
And then God showed up.
- Now the LORD said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him…
Again, Abram was called to leave, and again Abram followed.
Your Reputation Proceeds You
God promised Abram an inheritance not only of land and blessings, but also of a name that would be known throughout the world. He was to be a blessing to humanity. God was claiming Abram as His own, and Abram had only to obey.
- “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Melchizedek, Genesis 14:19-20
Melchizedek recognized Abram as being of God, and because of Abram’s obedience, God’s presence and power was acknowledged.
Not only did God give Abram a name and a reputation, but he also provided for Abram. In Genesis 14, Abram fought in a war to rescue his nephew Lot. Lot had left Abram and settled in Sodom because he wished to be on his own. What Lot wanted was not bad, but when he left Abram, he did not look for a place to settle that would allow him to rely on God. He looked for a place that was familiar:
- Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.
Sadly, what was familiar was not what Lot needed. Sodom took hold of Lot and claimed him. When Lot was taken prisoner because of Sodom’s war, Abram came to his rescue. Because of his participation, the king of Sodom offered Abram a reward. But God made the king’s offer unnecessary for Abram to accept, and by that, He protected Abram from being obligated to another man:
- Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’
Genesis 14: 22-23
Belonging Even As We Wander
God calls us to follow Him. That can mean an actual physical journey to countries we’ve never heard of before, or that can mean a job we never considered. God can call us to places, careers, and people whom we have long desired to be a part of. God has adventures and bright futures for all of us, and a little wandering is not harmful if we wander with God.
It’s when we separate ourselves from God that we see our plans fail. This isn’t because God’s angry with us for not sticking with him; rather, it’s because we’re relying on ourselves, and we’re not strong enough.
Lately, I’ve been listening to David Crowder’s version of the hymn “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing.” There’s a verse that keeps playing in my head:
- Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Abram could have left God. He could have returned to Canaan, or even Ur. But Abram’s faith meant that he was willing to follow God into the unknown. He didn’t know where he was going, he didn’t know who he would meet. He only knew God, and he chose to identify with God.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
There is a destination to which we are called. There are rest stops that we reach along the way. Sometimes we’re there for a few minutes, sometimes we’re there for years. We just need to always have a suitcase packed for the minute God says we’re ready to go.