My wife and I very recently moved. For reasons financial and otherwise, we packed up and left our faith community, our town, and the place where we met, dated, and were married. It has been a difficult transition with set-backs, confusion, doubt, and anger. And grief. There has been no shortage of grief.
I have spent the last couple of months reading the opening chapters of Genesis in my spare time. Several weeks ago, I was reading about Abraham. If you’re not someone who has grown up in a Judeo-Christian tradition, Abraham is the progenitor of the Jewish people. In Genesis 12, God tells Abraham (at this point his name is Adram) to leave his country and kindred to strike out and settle in a land that God has set aside for him.
So Abram and his wife Sarai pack up and leave their home of Haran. Abram is seventy-five years old. Seventy-five! Sarai isn’t any younger. And they are leaving their home. At age seventy-five. Abram and Sarai have spent a life time in Haran.
The biblical narrative doesn’t have much to say about Abram’s emotional reaction to the transition. In fact, the text paints the picture of a dutiful, obedient Abraham. And for my part, i honestly believe he was. But Abram ran into some setbacks.
Abram, Sarai, and Abram’s brother’s son Lot (and their whole household) strike out towards the promise land of Canaan. Early in the journey, Abram builds two altars to God to invoke God’s name and signify the divine’s presence with him and his convoy. No sooner does the narrative recount this, then the gears shift. A famine has hit the land and Abram is forced to make a pit stop in Egypt. Abram makes some pretty impulsive (and kind of revolting depending on how you interpret the text. See Genesis 12:10-20) decisions that result in he and his family getting kicked out of Egypt. Then while en route back to Canaan, Lot’s people and Abram’s people have some drama. Strife. In-fighting. To keep the peace, Abram and Lot agree to separate and settle different regions. Abram’s takes Canaan and Lot settles in a region of ill repute.
There’s much more to this narrative and I encourage you to check it out. Yet, as I’ve already mentioned, we are given no glimpse into Abram’s emotional process. Thus begins my speculation:
Did Abram cry for Haran?
When he and Sarai packed up of their belongings and left their home, did Abram weep? Did he shed a tear as he looked back at the land of his childhood? Did he feel pangs of doubt and regret as he saw the plots where he buried his mother and father?
When famine struck the land, and this band of travelers found themselves without food, did Abram cry in silence for the familiar landscape where, when famine occurred, he at least knew where to find the last spring holding out in the heat?
When Abram and Lot chose to part ways, did he wipe his eyes on his sleeves and say to himself “We never had these tensions in Haran…”
I think we should aspire to the obedience illustrated in Abram. And yet, isn’t it dysfunctional for us to ignore the reality of the human experience simply because the author of Genesis didn’t write that bit? What pain did Abraham feel in the pit of his stomach for the first few weeks or months of trekking across ancient Palestine when he remembered home?
I just wonder. Because I’d like to read that story. I’d like to know it’s okay to believe you are acting in obedience, pressing into the unknown, and that you can still grieve and doubt and question. As long as you are still walking forward.