Daily Archives: January 5, 2007

Failure to launch

Remember the story of Abraham?

Called by God to leave home and go to somewhere he didn’t know, he becames the archtypical hero upon which an entire nation is founded and is lauded as the prototype of true belief. But, was that the original plan?

Abram, as he was named by his father, was the oldest of three children. His youngest brother died early in life, leaving a young son who was taken in by his grandfather — Abram’s father — and raised as one of his own sons. Abram married a young woman who quickly proved that she was unable to have children — a disasterous situation in the Ancient Near East. This story was playing out just a little over 400 years after the flood, Noah’s son Shem was still alive, and the ability to procreate was essential to survival. Archeological discoveries tell us that infertility in this time and region were grounds for divorce; the inability to conceive was tantamount to murder and was not tolerated by society. Yet, Abram kept Sarai, his wife. [side note: she must have been an attractive, sensual, vivacious, hardworking woman; Abram would have to be completely captivated by her to have kept her. He was committing generational suicide by not divorcing her.]

However, it might be that we are missing an extremely important part of the story.

Was Abraham the one God originally called?

It appears that his father, Terah, might have gotten the call first. Look at Genesis 11:31. It is Terah who initially packs up his family and leaves Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan, not Abram. But, he stops when he reaches Haran and “settled there” (Genesis 11:31) and “died while still in Haran” (11:32).

It is at that point that the narrative states that God has his conversation with Abram, telling him to leave for Canaan. The rest, as they say, is history.

Back to Terah. Did God originally call him, he started to obey, but stopped? Why did he stop in Haran? The text makes it clear that he did not plan on doing that — he was going to Canaan. Haran was a long way from Canaan. Was it to have been a temporary pit-stop that turned into a 200 year long stay? Did he have a false launch? An intial spurt out of the box, then quickly fizzled? As you read the passage, this becomes the impression that is given. When Abraham is referenced in future texts, they state that he, Abram, left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the promised land of Canaan; the son is accorded the deed of leaving the original homestead even though it was the father who started the process. Terah’s failure to launch put Abram next in line to give it a try; his success gives him all the credit.

An opportunity to achieve the impossible, to become “the father of a great nation,” to go where no man has gone before . . . lost. The question I found myself asking was, “Why?”

Though the circumstances might be different, the end result is the same with each of us. God calls us to be different, to do the impossible. We just don’t know that he is calling us to be the hero, nor do we see the bigger picture that has us standing on the victor’s platform spraying the bottle of champagne. We start off saying “yes,” but that becomes a “maybe,” or even a “no” as the journey progresses. We think the “call” is simple — be a Christian — but are not prepared for the real call — be a world-changer. It is too easy to let the activities and concerns of life overtake the simple call, not realizing that it is stealing the victory, and rewards, of the complex one.

None of us think we’re an Abraham. The funny thing is, neither did he! Did he even realize that he was an “Abraham?” Not while he was living! I’ll bet you now that he does and is soaking up the accolades of heaven because of it.

Terah had the same shot at the laural wreath but proverbially “dropped the ball.” God asked Abram to take over and he simply said “yes.” He had no clue what he was getting into but he agreed to it. Are we any different? Is God simply wanting us to say “yes” to what he is asking? Is he waiting to makes us heroes just because we are obedient? Will he use us to do the impossible even though we don’t see ourselves as anything special?