God’s Beautiful Silence

Sometimes, it’s really cool when God is silent. Just ask Abraham.

Back when he was still Abram, he received the call of God to go on a grand – if a little vaguely defined – adventure. In Genesis 12, God tells him to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” And so, in faith, Abram packs up all of his belongings and all his family and a ton of other people, and together, they hit the road.

And so, in his very first step in response to God’s calling, Abram is disobedient.

Did you catch it? I never did until recently. God told Abram to go from his kindred, but Abram takes them all with him. It’s a move driven by a lack of faith. Abram didn’t want to be without all the comforts of home, just in case this whole “chosen nation” thing didn’t pan out. I wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t pointed out to me plainly, because God never comes down from the clouds and says, “Come on, Abram. We just went over this. You were supposed to leave all that behind.”

Instead, God is silent.

Then, while we’re still in the same chapter, we see Abram trying to pass his wife off as his sister because he’s afraid the people around him will try to kill him so they can marry her. Apparently, Abram forgot God’s promise to turn him into a great nation. Or he just flat-out decided he didn’t really believe it. Once again, it’s a move driven by a lack of faith.

And once again, God is silent.

We still see consequences for Abram’s decisions. Pharaoh and the Egyptians end up having to deal with some plagues for messing around with a married woman, and then Abram gets a good talking to from Pharaoh himself. The headaches Abram deals with thanks to Lot are well documented in the next several chapters. But I think it’s interesting that there’s no record of God jumping out from behind a burning bush and wagging a disapproving finger at Abram every time he slips up.

It’s easy for me to get an image of God as The Great Cosmic Accuser, just waiting for me to step out of line so he can rain down punishment and stern lectures. God’s wrath is very real, and we see some very real and very intense examples of it throughout the Bible.

It’s also easy for me to see God’s will as the most specific of treasure maps: Go twenty paces from a good Christian college, spin around eight and one-quarter times, marry the first girl you see, take eighty baby steps toward the church with a paint job that matches the sky at precisely 6:43 at the end of June, recite the secret password and then dig exactly four feet into the ground, and then, and only then, will you find My Will. It’s easy to worry that if I step outside the lines for even a little bit, God’s great plan for my life will crumble.

There’s a little truth to those ideas. My choices do have consequences. It is important to seek out God’s will for my life. But in reading the very first chapter that deals with Abram’s journey, I think it’s incredible to see a God who is often silent when his children make mistakes.

And he’s not silent because he’s angry.

He’s not silent because he’s given up.

He’s silent because he’s bigger than any mistake I’m capable of making.

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