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)
Faith. To be or not to be, that is the question. Either you will use it or you won’t; either you will love it or you won’t. But whether you have it or you won’t is not a question for all are given faith. It’s a gift.
Personally, I love it and hate it at the same time. I love it when I utilize my faith (when I have confidence in what I hope for and the assurance that I will receive it even though I don’t see it) for something miniscule like a parking space. I hate it when I am called to use the same principal for something that feels like a 1,100 mile journey from Ur to Canaan, like chapter planting.
In 2010, I agreed to survey the land at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Howard was an important location for Black Scholars and Professionals (BSAP), Graduate and Faculty Ministry (GFM), because BSAP had not planted on campus at what is referred to as a “Historically Black College or University (HBCU).” I agreed because I had never heard of InterVarsity before, so I figured what a great way to get acclimated into the ministry (and besides, I really wanted to participate in their Australia global mission project). Well, four years later I have yet to get to Australia, and I am still surveying the land. Actually, we are now in the process of becoming affiliated. It was nothing but faith to keep the journey going.
Abram is known throughout three major monotheistic religions—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—because of his faith. When he agreed to obey God, he did not know that his actions would make history. He simply heard God’s voice, identified it as God’s, and obeyed the command in faith in the one who promised (Hebrews 10:23). In our earlier discussions on hearing God’s voice and obedience, we focused on those who were entering into new land, obeying God for the unknown. But today, I want to focus on the one who has already answered and is in the midst of the journey. Where are you today? Are you in mid-journey wondering when will the end draw near; when will you arrive at Canaan?
Just the other night, I was sitting with a few 5th year Ph.D. students and they were wondering if they would ever see Canaan. They had clearly left Ur (their land of familiarity) to go to unchartered territories (into the world of academia), but now 5 years in with comps behind them and interviews and dissertations before them, they wondered if in fact they were ever going to reach the goal. In the context of Abram, they felt that if they were indeed on a 1,100 mile journey then they were only at the 500 mile mark. Weary, tired, befuddled, and frustrated, with blurred vision—these were the clear marks of these students. I know how they felt because I too felt, and at times, feel the same way as I remain faithful that this chapter will move from “in-process” to affiliate. All I, the students, and you (if you find yourself in the same place) can do is remain faithful to the one who promised—without wavering and in full trust. Remember that as Christians, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. Keep walking. The more you think you are farthest away from what God promised, the closer you are to Canaan.
Unchartered territory may be a new location, but it may also be faith. Maybe you have made it this far by your own merit, wit, skills, networks, and intelligence. If that is how you operate, in what area of your life are you willing to turn something over to God in faith? Are you willing to choose that one thing, pray about it, listen for God’s instructions, and act in obedience and faith? If not, why? Are you willing to turn those hindrances over to God?
Let us pray. Lord, I ask that you give us all the extra strength that we need to walk this last leg of the journey. We discussed and prayed for those who are just beginning, but for we who are wondering when in fact this journey will end, help us walk by faith and not by sight. Help us to know that if you brought us this far, you will indeed finish what you started. Help us have faith in you who began a good work and will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6), as well as even now. 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.
Great article comparing Abraham’s pilgrimage and that of grad students and people like us, all in process learning to walk by faith. Thanks, Lauri.