In reading through the Bible, the willingness to follow is astonishing. Whether it’s an Old Testament prophet following God into the wilderness, or a disciple taking up the yoke of their rabbi, Christianity has always been a faith of, well, faith. It has always been a way of life that reminds us that we are never settled into our own plans, never absolved of the responsibility of listening to what God has to say.
Hebrews 11 begins like this: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.”
Our faith is called to be imaginative, flexible, open, and dynamic. If we trust that God goes before us in all things, sometimes all we have to go by are footprints.
In Genesis chapter 12, Abram is called out from his country to follow God into an unknown land.
“The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
‘I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.’
So Abram left, as the LORD had told him.”
When you think of the true scale of what this meant, it’s staggering. Leaving your home, what you’ve always known, just because of a pull in your heart that won’t quit, a concrete feeling in your gut, a still, small voice in your ear. No long-term plans, no careful arrangements, no pro and con lists. Abram was 75 years old when God called him out of his father’s country and into another land. It’s easy enough to be a twentysomething, sniffing the air for adventure, but it’s entirely different to be settled, with a family, and still be willing to listen when you hear what Yahweh is saying. Most of us would say that we don’t have the courage to have that much faith.
To follow the footprints of those like Abram, John the Baptist, and even Jesus himself, I am withdrawing to the wild, to the silent beauty of the coast of Lake Michigan this weekend to pray, to seek, to be quiet, to listen. Somewhere along the way, I’ve stopped listening. I’ve unconsciously convinced myself that God needs my advice, needs my direction, needs to understand first what I want, and then form His plans accordingly. And in His love, He is drawing these notions out of me like poison from a wound. He is warning me that if I ask for Him, if I seek Him with all of my heart, I’d better be ready to get what I ask for. I am bracing myself for the intensity of His wildness, the scope of His dreams for me, summoning the courage to live out the faith that asks everything of me.
I’m weary of this dance that I’ve been doing for months (well, years, if I’m honest). I crave freedom from needing the last word, from needing control, from having to know and research and list and arrange, from needing more options until all I do is contemplate and never DO. I want to listen and have the courage, like Abram, to follow the footprints.
I will leave you with these words of Mars Hill’s own Rob Bell (for as in most things, he can say it far better than I):
“Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God. Not belligerent, arrogant questions that have no respect for our Maker, but naked, honest, vulnerable, raw questions arising out of the awe that comes from engaging the living God. This type of questioning frees us. Frees us from having it all figured out. Frees us from having answers to everything. Frees us from having to be right. It allows us to have moments when we come to the end of our ability to comprehend. Moments when the silence is enough.”