Sunday, May 17, 2009

Leave Your Country... and Go

It is coming up to twenty years since I moved to Inverness. I came up in 1989 to serve for a year on a gospel outreach team. I came from Rugby. It would probably be about this time that I was being interviewed to see if I was a suitable candidate, although the only requirements seemed to have been that you were a “born again” Christian (how long you had been born again didn’t seem to matter…maturity in Christ wasn’t considered important) and whether you were the member of a vibrant Church (usually within the Covenant Ministries band)

I had handed in my notice for my teaching job at the end of the previous year. I had been teaching abroad for five years and there had been so many changes in the courses and exams that I was finding it hard to catch up. I had been taken on by a temping agency and was filing letters in a big industrial firm. It wasn’t rocket science and once the novelty of people saying “Pease” and “Thankyou” and opening doors for you had worn off I was really being challenged.

Someone came to visit our church to enlist support for people on the outreach teams. They weren’t looking for volunteers, just financial support and practical help like food parcels, but a couple in the church said to me that they would support me when I enlisted. I had no intention of enlisting. Then someone else said the same thing. Then the pastor of the church explained that he had written on my behalf to get the application form and had already filled in the bit he was supposed to fill in recommending me.

I weighed up filing letters against going to a town I’d never been to, to spend a year with people I didn’t know, doing something that completely terrified me – the safe option versus the scary option…and I chose scary.

I didn’t choose to come to Inverness. Along with his recommending me for the job, my pastor also recommended that I get sent as far away as possible. He didn’t want the church and the people I knew to be near enough to me that when things got tough I could just come home. Inverness was the farthest away they could place me.

Before I left Rugby, they prayed and prophesied over me…like they did. Someone made the comparison between me and Abraham, quoting Abraham’s call. Just like the great man, I was heading to another country, to a place I didn’t know, leaving behind the familiar (and the letter filing), leaving behind my family who all live within a twenty mile radius of my mum.

“The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3

Abraham was 75 when God asked him to move. Had he been living in the UK in our generation, he would have already moved 5.7 times by then…but he wasn’t. Moving just wasn’t done in Abraham’s day. It wasn’t part of the culture, it wasn’t practical.

Abraham really downsized. He moved from a proper home with proper foundations to a tent. He shifted regularly. He didn’t move within a ten mile radius either,

Leaving you native country, relatives…I did that, but there is a leaving of something else. Leaving behind the familiar doesn’t have to mean heading off to the Amazon and preaching to pygmies. It might mean leaving the spade in the ground and walking over to the fence to talk to your neighbour.

What made Abraham leave?

It wasn’t his knowledge of God because he didn’t know who God was at the time. He came from a nation that worshipped idols.

God said, “I will make you into a great nation”. To get the nation, you need the son. Abraham didn’t have a son. What God was essentially saying to Abraham was “If you want the son, then I can give him to you, but only if you move to where I tell you to go.” The son is tied up in Abraham’s obedience to move. If he stayed where he was, there would be no sons. Abraham wanted the son…he wanted it badly…so he moved.

What do we want so badly that we are prepared to move to get it? The trouble with us is that sometimes we don’t want things that badly. We tell ourselves that we can live without that one thing we want so badly. We change our thinking about that one thing to make it no so necessary. So we stay put. We end up with a life less extraordinary than God intended for us.

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