Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1 NKJV
Some people can’t wait to get away from home. As soon as they turn 18 they marry or join the army and get stationed on the other side of the world. After being so far from home, some return as soon as they can. Others stay away forever-by choice.
Some people never leave home. I have friends with whom I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who never left Tulsa. I am glad they are still there for me to visit when I return home to see Dad. I meet them at our favorite restaurants that are still standing from the previous century. They watched me move off to Texas and then Florida, all the while staying in Tulsa. I am proud of my native Tulsa, and I am always glad to visit, but I can’t imagine myself living all my life in one place. Then again, the Tulsa I visit now is not the Tulsa in which I grew up. Dad doesn’t live in the house in which I grew up. The stores we go to weren’t around when I was kid. I visit my childhood church, but it’s like going home to strangers. The people there now never knew me, which is fine. I love meeting new people, but you know what they say, you can never go home again.
So I wonder about Abraham. Was he happy to leave home and go on an adventure, or was he afraid to leave home? Did he miss his family and friends? Did he miss the old places where he would hang out?
I grew up in Tulsa, always dreaming of living in Dallas. When we went to the baseball and football games there, I was always impressed with the modern architecture. It just seemed like the place to be. Tulsa had the minor league baseball team for the Texas Rangers major league team at the time. So when the Tulsa players got good they went to Dallas. I knew people in the Oklahoma Adventist conference who went on to the Union conference in Burleson, close to Dallas. Somehow I had it my mind that once you “arrived‘ you ‘arrived” in Dallas. So you can understand how happy I was when I had the opportunity to be a Bible Worker in Fort Worth, which is neighboring Dallas.
I remember when I left home, Mom cried. I did not realize at the time how cool it was having my own apartment in Tulsa, while still having my parents right there in town to see at church and meet for dinner and even run into at the store by chance encounters. At the time I could not appreciate all of that and was just excited to begin my new adventure. It wasn’t until years later when I stood at my mother’s coffin that I finally understood and appreciated her tears the day I moved away.
So I “arrived‘ In Dallas. Actually it wasn’t Dallas, it was Fort Worth. And fact is, I never “arrived.” I just thought I had. My new church district fell in love with me right away and I thought I was doing great! I was living the dream in the Dallas area. The people loved me so much I thought I must be a legendary Bible Worker. It took a few years for me to grow up and realize I was no legend. I was not even one of the better Bible Workers. I had all kinds of weaknesses and faults. Finally one day I woke up and realized these people don’t love me because I am good. They love me because they are loving people. I realized they were not encouraging me because I was good. They were enduring my follies, and patiently encouraging me because they saw my potential for good, if I ever grew up. Living in the Dallas area was good for me. Not because I had arrived like the sports stars who moved from Tulsa to Dallas, or the local Oklahoma conference officials who got called up to the union office. Living in Dallas was good for me because it got me away from home so I could grow up. I thought I had grown up and left home, but actually God had me leave home so I would grow up.
I wonder, did Abraham grow up before or after he left home? How did his ordeal in Egypt help him grow up? His actions in Egypt showed he had not arrived yet.
After more than ten years in the Dallas-Fort Worth area it had become home. I pictured myself living all my days in Texas. God had other plans. He let me live ten years where I had always dreamed of living but then He called me to another area. An opportunity came to serve as a Bible Worker in the Tampa Bay area. I had no interest. I did not know anyone there. Before I moved, a friend assured me, “you will get to Tampa and make friends and start doing things with them there and that will become your home. You won’t miss Texas any more.” Well I knew my friend was right, and that was what scared me! While my feet were still on Texas soil, the thought of feeling at home in another place terrified me.
After much fleece setting and protesting on my part, I was on my way to Tampa. It was much farther from home. Like I mentioned earlier, you had people moving from Oklahoma to Texas all the time for various reasons. I had connections in Texas from Oklahoma. I was only four and a half hours away from home, which made weekend visits easy. It wasn’t until I moved to Tampa, Florida, that I realized how close I was to Tulsa while in Texas.
When I left Texas people told me how easy it was for me to up and move to a strange new land because I was single. They thought being single made it easy. No, it made it hard. When you have a family and you move to a strange new place at least you have your family. I had no one. Just me all by my lonesome in a strange new place. In Texas I had connections from Oklahoma as well as all the friends I made in over ten years. In Tampa I had no connections and no friends. God knew what He was doing. I had even more growing up to do. Now I have been in the Tampa Bay area over 18 years. I went from being a total stranger all alone, to now not only having friends in my own church, but in most of all the neighboring Adventist churches as well. My friend was right. I am comfortable and happy here now. This is home. When I moved from Texas to Florida I knew exactly how many people I baptized. Now over 18 years in Florida I have literally lost count. God moved me here because there were people He needed for me to reach. He also knew I had more growing up to do that would never happen if I stayed so close to home.
Did Joseph have more growing up to do when He was sold as a slave into Egypt? Did he have even more growing up to do in prison? Did God allow all of those things to happen to Joseph to help him grow up? Is that why God has some of us move around so much? By moving two times God has helped me to grow personally as well as help more people. Meanwhile thanks to Facebook, cell phones and plane tickets, home is never far away. I still have my friends in Tulsa and the Dallas area. When I vacation and travel from Tampa to Dallas and then to Tulsa and back to Tampa again, I never feel like I am leaving home or going home. It’s all home now. I have a home that encompasses Oklahoma, Texas and Florida. I know God is with me wherever I go. As much as I did not want to leave Texas for Florida, I have found Florida to be one of the most wonderful places on earth. I am so glad I obeyed God’s providence. I have found the happiest place on earth is where God wants me to be.
Abram had to leave home so he could grow in faith. Abram had to leave home so he could meet those God wanted him to meet. More importantly Abram had to leave home to go home. Ur was not his real home. Canaan was his real home.
I understand that while God calls some of us to the other side of the planet, He also calls some, like the demoniac in Mark 5, to go back home. Either way God was calling the demoniac out of his comfort level, as it was probably awkward for him to go home after all the embarrassing things he had done. It is for sure that God will call us out of our comfort level to help us grow up and be all we can be for Him. That being said, I would like to ask you a question from Sunday’s section of this week’s lesson,
What might God be calling you to leave behind? That is, what part of your life might you have to abandon in order to heed the call of God?