In the 12 the Chapter of Genesis, Abraham (still referred to as Abram at this juncture) hears the voice of God: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”
That sounds a lot like the voice I heard in my late teen and early adult years. For my 18 th birthday, my parents gave me a set of luggage and sent me on my way. A few months later they moved to another city and the voice was even clearer: “Leave your parents’ house and go to the land that I will show you.” In college I began to discern my call to the priesthood, I was drawn like a magnet to the woman I would marry, and the future pulled me into my life’s journey. It was like taking a step at a time into the unknown. If it was frightening, I don’t remember that. I just remember being called to move, to go, to journey into what lay ahead. I somehow trusted that it would all work out and, while there have been numerous surprises along the way, the journey has been fulfilling. The voice Abraham heard is one that every young person hears as they are asked to move into the world on their own.
There’s a little detail in this call story, however, that’s surprising. Abraham was 75 years old when heheard the voice of God telling him to go on his life journey. He already had a wife and a home of his own and lots of possessions. He was not a young man being called to start out on his own. He was well established and at a point in life where he would more likely be encouraged to settle down and help others hear their own calls as they start out on their journeys. Presumably Abraham already did that himself in his early adult years as he established his identity apart from his family of origin. But here he is at a late stage in life hearing the call of the Lord again. “Go to the land that I will show you.” The story of Abraham isn’t really the call story of a young man coming of age; it’s a call story of an old man being asked to risk it all and move away from any security he has come to count on. A few people I know who are nearly the age Abraham was in this story have had their spouses die in the past couple of years. Each of them has been surprised to hear the voice of God calling them to move bravely into this next phase of their lives. All still miss their spouses but each is experiencing a fresh call as they claim a new identity for themselves. I know some 90 year olds who are having to change their world view and take risks in a way they haven’t had to before. Some 50 year olds I know are having to start over financially. A woman in her mid 60s is hearing a brand new vocational call. A colleague of mine, recently retired, has moved to two different cities recently to help two different congregations in an interim capacity. A few 60 year olds I know are adjusting to having their children gone but their parents more dependent on them. An 80 year old I know struggles with his health and is having to learn brand new ways to relate to his world, being forced to move from mastery to mystery.
While we may associate the notion of calls with earlier years, those calls keep on coming because life keeps on coming. If, in fact, your expectation in life is that you will get to the place where you can just settle down and be comfortable finally, then huge surprises await. Those calls, later in life, may be more challenging than the ones earlier because, as young people, we expect to move into the unknown. All our lives as children lead us to that point of being flung into the world on our own. That’s hard enough, as anyone in their 20s will attest. But being called to move into the unknown when we think we’re supposed to stay put can be threatening and unnerving.
Calls, both those early in life and later in life, are not just violent shoves out of the nest. As we respond to the calls of God, no matter what our age, we find remarkable ways in which we are equipped. I imagine eagles, when they are shoved out of their nests, are surprised and then excited to find that their wings support them and the air becomes a delightful place of adventure. As we hear and respond to calls, we discover that we are never too old or too young to respond. Some calls come as an invitation, others as a summons.
One reason the call of Abraham continues to feed us is because, knowing he is too old to conquer life on his own, we come to appreciate the gracious way in which God sustains and guides him. When God calls us, it is a push and a pull. God pulls us toward him as he pushes us out into the world. Too old? Too young? The bigger question is whether we are faithful this day or not. Calls continue as long as we breathe, and probably longer than that.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Joy and Concern:
We pray for those who have died: Carrie Cook Williams – mother of Carma Marks; Ruth Hutchinson Thomas – sister of Laura Thompson, Hank Hutchinson, and Kate Barnett; John Hawkins Napier III; Lynn Wilson Conrad – father of Emily Wise.
Rest eternal, grant to them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them.
As we begin the New Year we clear our Friends’ Prayer list and begin anew. Please let us know by phone, mail, or email anyone you wish included here for prayers.
Annual Meeting – January 22
At our Annual Meeting we will elect 7 Vestry Members for a 3 year term. The nominees are: