Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cue Ram in Thicket

"Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide." Genesis 22:13-14

I love the story of Abraham. Just when I think it's going to get old, it never ceases to amaze me.

Recently I finished reading When I Lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent. It's a very eye-opening read, especially given this woman's powerful story. In October of 1999, Carol's son--a U.S. Naval Officer--was arrested for murdering his wife's ex-husband. Jason was a Christian man full of integrity, so the news was obviously both shocking and devastating. Immediately, Carol was overwhelmed with a flood of emotions and legal complications that were hard to comprehend. However, thanks to the God she served, her and her husband emerged from the ordeal changed for the better. While her story didn't turn out the way she had hoped, she experienced the power of relinquishment in a profound way and now shares it with others.

One concept that struck me while reading this book had to do with Carol's spin on the ram in the thicket mentioned above. In the Biblical account, Abraham traveled 3 days to a spot God had chosen for him to sacrifice his one, only, and promised son Isaac. He faithfully laid down the wood, tied up his precious child, and raised the knife to kill him...until an angel of the Lord called out for him to stop. Just like in the movies, Abraham looked up and there in a bush was God's provision.

Carol waited for her ram in the thicket. She prayed for her son to be released. She waited. And wept. And prayed some more. It didn't come.

I think that at some point in our lives, we will all reach the point where that ram needs to show up. We wait and we pray and we cry, "God...any day now!" But does it always come? In Carol's case, it didn't...at least, not in an obvious way. God still provided but he chose not to answer her specific plea. Instead he brought her to the place where she could fully "lay her Isaac down" and be completely dependant on him.

The Bible talks again and again about the great faith Abraham possessed. People point to his extreme obedience as an indicator of how he trusted God to keep his promise even if that meant taking away his only hope. It's certainly painful (just ask Carol) but we can do the same. We serve a Lord who delights in bringing us to the point where he can use all of us. Many times that means breaking us until there doesn't seem to be anything left to surrender. Almost every time it requires patience.

Right now I find myself in a place where God has truly called me to wait. Being the organized person I like to think I am, this does not come easily for me. 2009 was the weirdest year of my life. Things have changed so much, but God is still so good! Many times I envision my own personal ram coming in and getting everything back to "normal." But now I'm seeing that maybe that's not God's plan. Maybe he's trying to teach me to be stretched and simply trust like Abraham did. Things probably won't ever get back to the way they were, and Jesus is teaching me to be okay with that. I'll have to learn to live in a new normal. However, I will not love God any less, and in the words of John Waller: "I'll be running the race, even while I wait."

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