Seated across from Harrison, just the two of us at dinner, a lone candle flickers in the middle of the table. After cutting a roll and filling it with barbecued pork, he builds a story between bites, revealing dreams I hadn’t heard him speak of before.
As we debrief about the day’s events and homework, he explains a longing to board a ship and sail to Europe so he can attend school in the UK and live in a small flat. A new home, overlooking the city, where he can watch people bustling about. “I don’t want to live with regrets,” he says with a half-smile, eyes squinting behind his hipster glasses. In essence, what my son is expressing is that he doesn’t want to live chasing someone else’s dream for his life.
At that time, more than three years ago, H and I hadn’t mentioned our dream to live in London yet. But this new awareness becomes a holy moment over dinner at 6:30 on a Wednesday night. Nodding my head, I assure Harrison that his dad and I want him to live with abandon.
While H and I walked around with swollen hearts for England, God was preparing Harrison for change too, even though he wasn’t aware of the imminent changes about to happen. He wasn’t planning on missing nine months of his junior year of high school to sit around waiting for a visa process.
In the Akedah, God said to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you” (Genesis 22:2).
Abraham got up early, saddled his donkey, prepared his servants to travel, and split wood for the offering. Three days later, the mountain they were walking toward appeared in the distance. And Abraham says something that reveals the depth of his trust.
He told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you” (22:5).
We is the key word here. Not I, but we. Even in the midst of all that uncertainty about how things were going to go down, Abraham is sure he will return with Isaac. He doesn’t know how, but he trusts beyond comprehension. “God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering” (22:8 MSG).
Abraham named that place God-Yireh or “God-see-to-it.” God sees to our uncertainty with His power, presence, and majesty.
This morning, I welcomed my son at the door of our London terrace house, fresh off a train from Scotland with blistered feet and sunburned face, carrying a smelly backpack of wet, muddy clothes after hiking in the Cairngorms.
A few minutes later, I sit across from him at the table and watch how he savors scrambled eggs, bacon, and stack of toast; slurping a fruit smoothie, stopping only to speak between swallows about stories from his adventure. Through the uncertainty of climbing a mountain in cold, windy weather, I hear that same resolve about chasing dreams; a confident assurance in the man he is becoming.
Living a good story requires listening attentively like Abraham and letting go of the need for certainty.
As we enter a new month, season, and school year, let’s transition into autumn the same way Abraham approached the Akedah. We may not know exactly how things will turn out, but God is with us, directing our steps as we listen for his still, small voice.
He has a track record for providing what we need when we need it and sometimes in ways beyond comprehension. Staring you in the face with love and gratitude like a lamb in the thicket of your kitchen table.
This post is adapted from Rhythms of Rest, Chapter 9 – Uncertainty: Rest and Love are Connected. Download this printable September calendar with daily prompts that help you persevere in finding rest in our uncertain world.
I love this…I love the we. I love how Abraham anticipated the pivot—that there would be a turning back. That’s what happens sometimes, and then the pivot is written into the story, marked as redemption. Anticipating great things for Harrison in the days ahead. xx
I love the “we” too Dea. It’s what makes his story relatable and inspired. And you know I love a good story that illustrates beautiful redemption. *wink* Thanks for your prayers for Harrison.
Oh my, this broke me open. “God see to it.” Amen.
Elizabeth, praying for you today, that whatever cord this story struck in your heart, God’s presence will be there with you in it.
I’m always grateful for reminders of the stories that remind me of who God is, of his character, and what that means for us.
And this right here: Living a good story requires listening attentively like Abraham and letting go of the need for certainty. So hard for this risk averse, story-loving girl.
I come from a long line of risk averse ancestry, I can empathize. That’s why Abraham’s story speaks to us, yes?! May we follow Abraham’s lead and leave a legacy of trust for our children.
Shelly, such a beautiful post. I love how God was already preparing Harrison’s heart (and yours and H’s) for the dreams that He alone was planting. When they are God’s dreams for us, it’s then that He gives us the desires of our hearts, His desires and dreams *for* us. I think one reason we can be so easily disappointed is that we conjure our *own* dreams for ourselves, rather than asking God for His. So we wait and wait and when those don’t come true, of course, we’re disappointed (even disillusioned). But when it’s God whom we seek, when we want what He wants for us, He, our Jehovah-jireh, always provides (and at the perfect time). How could He do less? And those dreams of His are often far beyond our wildest expectations (such as they have been for you and your whole family). The “we” was always one of the most powerful truths for me in Abraham’s incredible story. He had such certainty in the Lord and His power of resurrection. He had fully intended to slay his son, in obedience to what God had asked. And yet, he also believed that this mighty and good and all-providing, all-powerful God would resurrect his beloved Isaac. And of course, one day, God did not stay his hand as He’d done for Isaac, and He slayed His only begotten, beloved Son. And then . . . after that hopeless, despondent three-day waiting period, God raised Jesus from the dead. When God asks us to wait, it is always for our good and His glory. Thank you, dear one, so much for sharing and giving us such beautiful hope.
PS Thanks too for another hiking suggestion! Wow, Harrison’s adventure sounds magnificent. I’m ready to hike in Scotland again anytime.
I’m not sure if you remember Lynn, but during our waiting season to London, you gave me an encouraging word about our lamb in the thicket. You have been such an important part of our story and I’m grateful, always, for your wisdom and encouragement.
Oh I do. And thank you so much for these gracious words. So humbling. I am praying for you now in your US sojourn. I know God is doing such beautiful things through your life, dear Shelly.
Oh, and remember the butterfly?
AMEN to: “Living a good story requires listening attentively like Abraham and letting go of the need for certainty.” I am one of those who prefers certainty over adventure. God’s way of growing me away from that preference was to marry me to a minister who served six churches over a 40-year career. Each move was full of uncertainties and a bit of adventure as we found our way in new communities, met scores of new people, and sought to follow God’s plan in new settings. Looking back I think, What we would have missed had we stayed in one place– all those wonderful friends we made, all those important lessons we learned, all those fulfilling opportunities. Praise God he knew better than I what would be most meaningful in the end. And then another AMEN to this statement: “He has a track record for providing what we need when we need it and sometimes in ways beyond comprehension.” Our lives have been proof of that, too. Thank you, Shelly, for reminding me that “God is with us, directing our steps as we listen for his still, small voice”–even in retirement!
Nancy, I can really relate to your comment as a clergy spouse who has moved 9 times! And like you, I think of all that we would have missed in life had we stayed “safe.” There is no safer place than to be in the dangerous will of God.
I love this story of longing, trust and the faithfulness of a loving God. I have never been one to need a concrete reply from God, but have walked blindly trusting He would always be there. There have been times I’ve gone through the wrong door but He is faithful to always get me back on tract. Thank you Shelly for sharing this story… your life. I am greatly encouraged!
Diane, that blind trust is a rare gift. Never take it for granted! Thanks for being here.
Sometimes I’m Abraham. Sometimes I’m the little mouse scurrying for cover. Thank you for sharing the God who sees to my needs and protects the dreams He gives me. Growing up very predictably I longed for adventure. Having had adventure I now often long for the predictable. Ha. Seasons of grace.
I’m the same Rebecca. I used to think that being both fearful and confident was failure in my faith somehow. But I’ve learned that fearful and confident is healthy and keeps me humble. And we always want what we don’t have, yes! I grew up with curly hair and longed for straight locks most of my life. But now, I’m finding contentment in what I have rather than what I lack. It’s a good place to live. Thanks for being here and adding to the conversation!
It struck me that Abraham was blessed NOT to have magazines, tv or the internet to google, “what to do when God tells you to sacrifice your son.” He could only rely on God and his faith in God to tell him what to do. I sit in a quiet house, in a quiet wood and realize that God gives crazy directions and risky guidence to me. If left to myself, I research, checking and double checking, but God says marry that man and 6 months later we did, God said buy that house and without seeing it, we did. I do things differently. I dragged my husband to 20ish jewelry stores looking for a ring. I planned 25 houses to look at in 3 days. I want certainty, God wants me to listen and trust. I will say God’s way is faster, less hassle and a great out come! I know even when God chooses a “fixer-upper” house for us, He has got big and good plans for us! (I am totally enjoying the creative thought and work on the house.) I remember back to hurricane Katrina. God picked out our house then too. We had 2 days to get a house and only got to really look at 1, but viewed a couple more. That time God gave us a brand new and very safely built house. He saved everything of ours. The funny thing was that amidst all the devastation, I felt safe in God’s protection. Again, God was preparing us for trusting Him when personal devastation would hit us just a few months later. God always has good plans….goal today: rest, listen and know God has got it all and it all will keep!
I agree Ann — God’s ways are mysterious and often irrational to the world. But He is good. And following Him is a wonderful adventure. Thanks for being here.
The church where I work is going through a restructuring and it would seem many will lose their jobs. Both my husband and I work at the church in different capacities so the stress of possibly losing our jobs has been very real. I’ve been telling many here at work that I know without a doubt that the Lord alone holds my future in His hands, but that the uncertainty of what is coming (the not knowing) is what is killing me inside. I constantly pray and ask the Lord to fill my heart and mind with His peace so I can weather this storm without leaving “dead bodies” around me because of the stress filtering out in unwelcome ways. So coming across your website this morning and this article in particular feels like a direct word from the Lord to me in my situation. So let me declare today with faith, that my husband and I will continue to praise the Lord when we settle into our new positions after the restructuring!!!