Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Faith of Abraham

Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

Abraham is a Biblical character whose story is well known as a person who was called by God in a way that most of us would have a hard time following. When asked by God to sacrifice his son, Abraham followed and was willing to move forward in a way that most of us would find unimaginable. For most of my life, I thought that was a terrible thing for God to ask, and I questioned the validity or purpose of the story, not understanding why a loving God had ever asked that to begin with, and further, how Abraham could have ever followed. I finally think I understand the faith of Abraham.

I believe that God knew that Abraham had an enormous task ahead of him and would need extreme faith in order to move forward, in order to continue without turning back. The request to sacrifice his son was more of a test than a command. God was allowing Abraham an opportunity to gauge his faith, not so much a test in terms of passing or failing, but a way to measure where he stood in that moment and if he was ready to move forward on his path. I think that we are often asked to do things (or we ask for our miracles), then we are given opportunities to follow in faith...the more faith we show, the more ready we are for our purpose, or to continue on our true path. It is so much easier to just follow society's norms by doing the paint-by-number faith that most of us never step out of that comfort zone to make any choices that require real sacrifice.

It is easy to speak of faith in ordinary ways, but what if God asked you to move in a way that seemed insane to others? If the message was loud and clear enough to make you sure that it was Divine, would you act, or would you deny any act that was outside of the lines? Do you actively ask for opportunities for true service, or are you satisfied with the usual and customary ways of serving - those deeds that allow you to color inside the lines and not upset your life? It is hardly faith or service if you are not challenged, it is merely punching the clock or marking off items on a checklist.

We have become a society that has little tolerance for anything. We attack those who don't believe or behave exactly as we do, all the while smiling and congratulating ourselves for being open-minded. Unfortunately, many in our Christian-based society do it in the name of Jesus, which is ridiculous since he actually taught just the opposite...love and acceptance. I have friends who have recently had experiences with God and Holy Spirit that were very real and incredibly powerful, moving them to tears of joy, but because those experiences varied slightly from the comfortable and controlled doctrine of their church, the events were diminished as not real, or something to be avoided. Some were even attacked for daring to think that it might be God working. Ministers often think that they can decide for us what God should be, but we should not allow them that power.

I will tell you that in my experience working with people on their spiritual experiences or guiding them to finding their own place and their own joy, I have often been witness to profound and magnificent moments in which their lives or perception changed greatly, where they experienced joy and peace in a way that they had never known. One thing that I can say with conviction is that if you sincerely ask God, angels, or the power of the universe to enter your life and guide you, it will occur. The challenge is being willing to listen when it happens, being willing to follow, even when it may seem unusual or against the tide. We tend to like to listen to the things that aren't really challenges, but just more of the same common path.

There is a saying that is often uttered from church pulpits that "God works in mysterious ways," yet I have to laugh at how quickly these same leaders will run from that sentiment when it doesn't fit into their restrained and controlled doctrine, when God works in such a way that it may lead one of their sheep in a different direction than the church desires, or different path than a minister can see. The most important thing that you can do to change your life is to ask for it, then step back and be open to the process, having faith that there may be a bigger picture than you, or other humans, can see in the moment. Serious faith is not just following the easy or the well-traveled path, but being willing to follow a less traveled path and forge a way for others to follow and explore if they so desire.

So how does your faith measure up? Do you take the easy path that has been worn clear by common actions, or do you venture to be the one who will take the road less traveled...the path that may make all the difference...the path that may make your service extraordinary rather than ordinary? I will be honest and say that I sometimes hesitate when asked to take the less traveled road, to blaze a trail that others can follow on. It is scary and without many comfort zones. I try to stay positive and remind myself that each time one of us takes a new path, it opens it up for others, but it is still not always easy. I know that many people are now being called, like Abraham, to live up to their purpose for being here. I hope that one by one we can have the strength to step up and make those changes, empowering each other along the way. And I pray that those of us who cannot meet that challenge will at least be supportive to those who try to do so.

I encourage you to start 2009 with an adventurous and open mind that will allow you the courage to ask for more, and the compassion to refrain from attacking those who venture outside the lines. Perhaps they are simply clearing the path to a brighter future for all.

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