The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. . . . so Abram went, as the Lord had told him. – Genesis 12:1,4a (NIV)
Just reading the above scripture makes me wonder if Abram was a supernatural being or a superhero. The Lord said, so Abram went. The Lord said to leave everything of comfort and familiarity and go to a new place unexplored. Abram heard God and he went. No fuss, no fight, no fear. If it was me, in my human frailty, the outcome may have been different. As a matter of fact, the outcome was different. As one called to go forth into the unknown and plant a graduate chapter, I must say that my story went something like this . . . “The Lord said, ‘Go’ and she . . . hesitated.” As an educator and seminary graduate, my logic preceded my faith. I approached this call in the context of inductive reasoning. I needed to know who, what, when, how, why, cause and effect. But not Abram. He heard and he went forth leaving the familiar for the unknown for the sake of planting in a new land; planting in order to expand the mission and purpose of God.
At this very moment, you may find yourself at a place where you think you have heard God ask you to walk into the unknown. But because the request seems beyond your capabilities, you vacillate between thinking and going. You begin to question the validity of God’s call for you. You think it is time to move on from your postdoc and enter the challenges of the academic job market, or you think it is time to leave the secure and familiar land of full-time employment for the new land of graduate study.
The more insane the mission, the more clarity we seek from God. Until we receive the clarity that we desire, we remain thinking and not going. We want God to be as clear with us as God was with Abram. As done for King Belshazzar, we want God to write the message upon the wall (Daniel 5). Was Abram a superhero or supernatural? No, he was not. He was, however, connected to the character of God. He was God’s sheep and he knew the voice of his shepherd. Abram, through the relationship that he had formed with God, he knew God. He knew the God of unusual requests thanks probably to the character witness of Noah.
When we know God through the intimacy of prayer, listening, and studying, we learn to not only hear the voice of our shepherd but to trust. We begin to trust in the nudging that won’t go away; the vision that won’t seem to disappear; and the boldness to serve Christ in territories unknown and perhaps even uninhabited (John 10). We often think that if only we could hear God we would know what God wants. In actuality, when we know what God wants (which is God’s will), we will hear God’s voice more clearly because we will be able to identify the voice of God over and beyond any other. What does God’s voice sound like? God’s word. Abram knew and he followed “as the Lord told him.” What has God told you and are you willing to go in obedience?
Abram travelled 1100 miles from Ur to Caanan; not an overnight trip by far. In the next part, I will share how hearing plus obeying does equal immediate results. You may just have to walk 1100 miles to get there.
As a graduate student or as faculty, you may find it close to impossible to develop your ear for God’s voice due to time and obligations. But recognizing that, as sheep, our total dependence comes from the shepherd, what sacrifices will you make and commit to so that you may hear beyond what your eyes may see?
We thank you for your call. We ask that you begin to increase our ability to hear so that when you lead, we will follow without hesitation or vacillation. Move us from thinking to going at all times and in all seasons.
In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
About the author:
Lauri A. Swann received a B.A. from Syracuse University, an M.A. from The George Washington University, and her M.Div. and D.Min. from Wesley Theological Seminary where her thesis was Sex Trafficking within the Black Church Community: A Call and Response. She currently serves as the campus staff minister of InterVarsity's Graduate and Faculty Ministries, Black Scholars and Professionals (BSAP) Fellowship for the Washington, D.C., region, specifically on the campuses of Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Before joining Intervarsity she served as both a youth and young adult pastor and taught in both the private and public charter school systems in Washington, D.C. She is married to Kevin and together they have three beautiful children. Lauri blogs at Peeling Oranges at Midnight and has contributed to InterVarsity's The Well -- a ministry of Women in the Academy and Professions.