There is a saying, “when you make plans, God laughs.” It is not that God is out to turn our lives upside down, or that God wants to make things difficult for us, but that life is full of surprises, and sometimes God is the source of unexpected adventures, moving us out of our comfort zones and inspiring us to get out of our recliner chairs and change the world.
Just think of those biblical characters, whom God surprised with possibilities they would never have imagined: Jonah, the reluctant evangelist, running away and finding himself in the belly of a big fish; Esther, a beauty queen, who saved her people; Ruth, a foreigner, and stranger, whose romance with Boaz, sets the stage two generations later for the birth of David, thegreatest king of Israel; Saul, who’s blinded by a light on his way to arrest followers of Jesus, and then is given a new name, Paul, and called to preach a faith he once persecuted; and Mary and Joseph who expected an ordinary marriage and ended up becoming parents of God’s messenger to humankind.
Abraham and Sarah, once known Abram and Sarai, were planning for retirement. They had good stock portfolio (though most of it involved cattle and sheep), status in the community, and belonged to the best clubs. You can imagine Abraham at Crisp or the Roadhouse, maybe Bleu, or lounging in the bar at the Hyannis Port Golf Club in Nantucket pink shorts, boat shoes, and an untucked sport shirt, and Sarah with a classic summer dress, basket purse, and pearls, freshly showered from a game of tennis or planning the gala at the garden club. They had it all, money, respect, health; everything except a child, and that reality gnawed at them.
As he pondered what he would do in retirement, Abram began to feel restless. He had a life everyone envied, but was it enough? He reached the top, but was there something more? He had been faithful, but could God have more in store for him?
Abram began hearing voices, that is, an inner stirring that, at first, he couldn’t identify. He began to share his uneasiness and questioning with Sarai who had questions of her own. Is this all there is to life – wealth, status, property? Those are all good things, but could there be something more?
God speaks in our thoughts, intuitions, questions, imaginings, encounters, and ideas that at first seem improbable, impossible, and impractical. Perhaps, months went by and the voices, the urge for change got stronger in Abram and Sarai. We don’t know how God spoke to this couple, but they came to identify this holy restlessness, the quest for something more, with the God of the mountains and desert, the God of their parents and grandparents, wild and uncontained, and pushing us forward toward new horizons.
“We have to do something,” they said to one another. “We have a good life, everything we’d hoped for, but we’re called to something greater, something we don’t yet imagine.” So, they reviewed their assets with their financial advisor, sold their properties, and gathered their herds and employees, and set out on a journey.
As J.R.R. Tolkien writes, “not all who wander are lost” and surely some of Abram and Sarai’s friends thought this couple was lost as they set off across the wilderness toward a promised land, they had never seen.
Abram and Sarai invite us to ask: What is our next adventure? Yes, we might be old, “as good as dead,” as the author of Hebrews describes Abraham and Sarah, and yet there is still waiting to be born in us, a dream, something that calls us forward, one more step to take to fulfill our lives and live God’s dream for us.
No doubt still uncertain of the journey, Abraham and Sarah set off toward far horizons. On their journey, they do something interesting: at every stop, they create a pillar of rocks to be a sanctuary. In those days, people believed that gods were geographically limited, and that when they left their home territory, they entered another god’s territory. I suspect, Abraham and Sarah believed that as well: at first, they erected pillars to attract the attention of their god, to get their god to travel with them. Later, they erected these holy spots to remind them that God was with them on the journey – that the One who calls is the One who companions and is the One who gives us a dream and the energy and vision to seek and find it, to live it out.
Sometimes we miss our dreams because we think too big, other times because we think too small. But every dream begins with one step and then another and then third…ordinary acts with just a little imagination become acts of greatness if done with love and done for God. One small act can change everything: give a child hope, an elder confidence, a forgotten one a sense of purpose.
Abraham and Sarah went on a geographical journey, but each step was spiritual. You may not travel, but you can take a journey without distance. In your neighborhood and on the Cape, adventures await, people need hope, the forgotten need welcome, children need love.
Toward what adventure is God still calling you? What horizon is still ahead for you? What image still comes to you, urging you to do something unexpected and new, to explore the geography of your own self?
Each day is an invitation, but will we notice it? Each day is an adventure, but will we embrace it? As Abraham and Sarah discover, God comes to us in the ordinary – and sometimes the extraordinary – inviting us to become the heroes and heroines, the storytellers of our own lives. Listen to that voice, don’t turn away, weigh the possibilities, adventure awaits you!