Ever since rerouting ended, my personal prayer has centered around what God is calling me to do. I think I want God to deliver this perfect package to my front door with all of the instructions clearly laid out for me. And, everyday I just wait for this package and another day goes by where I do nothing. I may tinker with what I am pretty sure God is calling me to do, but I don’t jump in with both feet because I am afraid I might drown, I am afraid I might fail, I am afraid I might offend someone, I am afraid I may not get the teaching of the Catholic Church exactly right, I am afraid I’ll lose friends, I am afraid I may misinterpret what God is saying to me. And the fears go on and on!
In today’s 1st reading (Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18), it’s this crazy story about Abraham and cutting all these animals in two pieces. It has only been in the the last couple of years that I even knew what this meant and I know I am not alone. Really, it has only been in the last 10 years that I even cared about anything in Scripture that I could apply to my life. Until, one day, I was going through some stress in my life, and a reading at Mass actually resonated with me and I thought, “I think God is talking to me.” That was the moment I realized that if I actually paid attention to the readings at Mass, I would receive the gift of God ALWAYS speaking to me. That moment changed everything for me. Each week at Mass became a personal competition for me. I wanted to try to figure out what God was saying to me! Sometimes I got it right at the moment, sometimes it would take days or weeks to figure out, and yes, sometimes I just never could figure it out. That’s okay. God does not stop speaking. God’s timing is perfect and we will hear what we need to hear when our heart is ready and open. God is so patient.
Today God said to Abraham and to me, “Fear not, I am your shield, I will make your reward very great.” Abraham questions God, Abraham wants to know how he can trust God, Abraham wants to know that God will come through–we all want to know this very same thing. So, this is the easy part of the reading that I can understand, but, the rest of the reading about the animals being cut up is not so easy. This is where most of us in the pews will stop listening because we have no idea what this means. I will try to explain what I have learned about this and invite you to investigate on your own what this means as it really changes everything that God is trying to say to us. In today’s world, we sign papers to make a promise or a contract. In the days of Abraham, there were covenant ceremonies. When you walked through animals that were split in two, you were essentially saying that if I don’t do what I am promising to do, may I be cut off, destroyed, ripped to pieces, like these animals. Whoa! That’s some kind of promise!
“As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him. When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, WHICH PASSED BETWEEN THOSE PIECES. It was on that occasion that the Lord made a covenant with Abram..”
God is saying to Abraham and He is saying to us, if I break my promise to you, I am willing to be destroyed, and, if YOU break your promise, I am still willing to be destroyed. God never broke His promise. He sent His Son to die for our broken promises as human beings. That’s amazing and humbling and convicting all at the same time!
How do I know I can trust God? How many times did Abraham have to trust God throughout the Old Testament? Like Abraham, we will continue to wrestle with God through every trial, every suffering, but the point is, to continue to trust Jesus first, even when you are not sure where you are headed. This is what Abraham did. This is what I need to do. This is what I witnessed men doing today.
I was in the church this morning just as the Men’s prayer breakfast was getting out. I watched men leave to go to work, but I watched other men go into Adoration, or sit in the pews to pray. I immediately had this strong sense of admiration for these men because they were going to Jesus first before they started their day. I think we are used to seeing women pray in the church, but there is something about seeing strong men pray on their own, outside of the Mass that makes faith look attractive. I don’t think any of us should underestimate the power of witnessing people– men, women and children– that come before the Lord in prayer. Children, especially boys, need to see men pray. Women need to see men pray. Men that can humble themselves before the Lord. Nobody knows the struggles that we all carry in our hearts–sickness, marriage issues, children away from the faith, job loss, the list can go on. There may have been men there praying out of pure gratitude for all that God has given them. Praise God! No matter the reason, when you see men trusting God and putting their life into the Lord’s hands, I think it can have a profound effect on a family and a faith community.
I pray that today is the day that we trust God to be who He says He is. I pray that we have the confidence in ourselves to bring others to Jesus in the unique way that God has called each of us to do that, and when we stumble, to get back up and trust that God will “make our reward great” in heaven. I pray that we can start to read the Scriptures as a personal message from God to our individual hearts and apply them to our marriages, our families, our workplace, our community, our churches and all of our relationships.
I am putting fear behind me and I am finally going to finish writing a book that I started two years ago. If God wants me to bring others to Jesus in the way that he has called me to, then, I will finish this book. Please pray for me.