The early chapters of Abraham’s story make painful reading.
Again and again, through the decades God promises him a child: At the great oak of Moreh at Shechem, when he was 75; at Bethel, when he lets his nephew Lot have the more fertile land; and near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where “Abraham believes God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and God makes his great covenant with him.
And not just one child.
Abraham is promised descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky, and the sand in the seashore. God promises all the land his eyes can see to Abraham’s offspring.
Which for decades number precisely zero!
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How does Abraham hear God’s great promises? In the same way we do. “The word of the Lord came to him” (Gen 15:4). He heard it in the secret places of his heart, a clear word, a clear certainty and surety.
And meanwhile in the “real” world: nothing happened.
No pregnancy. Sarah and Abraham just grew older and older. Menopause came and went, and still he heard the insistent promise of descendants, as many as the stars in the sky.
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Are you living in the in-between land of a sensed, longed-for, right destiny deferred? What should you do?
1) Remember God. Keep Believing.
Look up, God seemed to be saying, don’t look down. Don’t look at your withering body, your declining strength. Look up at the skies, at infinity, which mirrors my power. Look up, for with me anything is possible.
2) Remember the world is full of goodness even while your dream gestates
The dream God has given you is just a sliver of the goodness God showers on you in the land of the living.
Even though Isaac was not born, Abraham had a beautiful wife, and success, which is satisfying: “sheep and cattle and male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants and camels.” “He had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.”
While waiting for the sky above you to be filled with the promised stars, never fail daily to taste the goodness of the Lord, and thank him for it. The sea remains full. The palette of the sky changes minute by minute. The world bursts with beauty. People are fun! There is work and food and rest and companionship and friendship.
Never shrink your world to Isaac who will come when the time is right and you are right.
3) Prioritise your dream
The dream God has placed in your heart, and confirmed to you repeatedly in prayer, through the months and years…if you are sure it is of God, then step out in it.
Do what you have to do. Arrange your life in accordance with this dream.
The German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke writes “Ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.
My dream is to write. For me, believing God will mean not looking at my own tiredness, but leaning on him for strength.
Believing God has called me to write, I will need to highly prioritise it, which sadly, I often don’t do. I will set my face towards my goal.
And this will mean pruning things which are not the work which God has given me to do.
Work on your dreams, believing that you are in the vine, that it sap rushes through you, that God wishes to enlarge your territory.
Work like one flowing in the river of God’s presence and power, relying on the power of the river in you and around you for strength. s
4 Conversely, Just Stand There. Quit Striving. Just Rest.
The work Abraham had to do for Isaac to be born was to believe.
To trust and rest in the goodness of God.
To believe God was powerful and could do what he promised.
To believe God was good and would what he promised
Abraham needed the decades of resting and trusting to be able to do what he had to do—to surrender Isaac to God, so that Isaac was wholly God’s, not Abraham’s at all, so that God could enter human history through this family.
Passive faith, just resting, was what God required of Abraham.
Don’t prematurely grab the ball of the dream out of God’s hands, accuse him of not working on it hard enough and fast enough, and go off and do things in your own power, without checking with him.
Doing things he has never told you to do, things he has never authorised: These are always a bad idea, though they may yield short term apparent fruits, like Ishmael. In the long run, they may delay and damage your dream because you are listening to the voices of fear and your own finite wisdom, instead of listening to God’s infinite wisdom.
How about you? Are you living in the in-between land of dreams deferred? Any survival tips?