Scholar’s Compass Unchartered Territories: Obedience

Image courtesy of porbital at

Image courtesy of porbital at

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)


When last we met, Abram had heard the call of God and went as the Lord had told him. Now, to be fair, Abram did not go completely blind. In Genesis 12:2-3, God says:

“I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Not a bad deal, you agree? I wonder if Abram would have still entered into the agreement minus the promise of greatness.

There were many instances in my life where I heard God say, “Go” and never, and I mean never, did it come with a big-picture outcome. Never did I hear God say that if I pursue two Masters Degrees and a doctorate while working full-time, serving as a pastor, caring for three children and a husband that I would experience a Billy Graham moment and witness thousands surrendering to the glory of God. Never did I hear God say that if I gave up searching for a place within the world of academia to pursue a career with InterVarsity as a campus missionary and chapter planter, that I would have great impact too numerous to count. So why did I go? I went because I trust God.

I learned to trust God because I learned to know God. I learned to know God through obedience. Deuteronomy 11:13-14 says,

“If you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with your heart and all your soul then I will send rain on your land in its season . . .”

So, when God said go and plant I trusted and continue to trust God—especially for rain.

You may think that attending graduate school or serving as faculty is not as deep as Abram being asked to go to a new land, but it is. Whether you are a new grad student or faculty member, whether you are serving at an Ivy League or teaching a one night a week class at the local community college, know that God did not send you there for self-aggrandizement. You were asked to go for God’s glory—to be the container of God’s expression on earth.

Abram traveled 1,100 miles from Ur to Canaan. He did not know where he was going which means he definitely did not know how long it was going to take for him to get there; but it didn’t matter. As we go forth in obedience, know that we do not need to know the end result or the reward. Our final decision to go does not rest on our need to know how long it will take to complete the degree or find the job; how well we will do as graduate students; or what faculty position will be offered if a certain path is pursued or a certain connection made. What we need to know is if God said it then we must obey it, understanding that God’s mission is being fulfilled though us and that God will make it rain.

But what is obedience without faith? In the final entry, I will share with you how hearing and obeying God to plant could not have been possible without faith.


Reality is that we would never purchase a car or home sight unseen. The same applies to our life endeavors. It is wonderful to experience unchartered territories when we know the reward—from received grants to employment opportunities only afforded to recent graduates. But if you did not know the reward, would you have still gone out into the unknown trusting God in God’s direction and mission? If not, what do you think has hindered you from obeying God sight unseen?


Dear God,

There may be places where you are sending that we just do not want to go or we are fearful of the journey or the end result. Although we may not know the reason behind what we are hearing you say, we trust you, therefore we obey you. And for those who wrestle with obedience, we ask that you increase our ability to wrestle and to obey. For those who are transitioning into new arenas that are beyond expectation, let them be mindful that they are there for your glory. Finally God, we ask now that no matter what the transition may be that you let it rain in this season of our lives. Amen.

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Lauri Swann

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.

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One Comment

    keseaton commented on October 3, 2014 Reply

    Lauri – thank you so much for this series of posts. I have been contemplating some new things, and hesitating as some of the outcomes are not completely clear. Great reminder to follow God’s leading in obedience even if all of the downstream results are not yet known!

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