Advent day 2 | Genesis 22:1-19
In my own previous readings or study of the story of Abraham’s obedience and full faith in God as he is willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, for whom he waited decades for, and holds the promise of heritage, usually my focus is on sacrifice. What am I willing to let go of while my hope rests in the Lord? Even in the past year I’ve thought of this verse in light of my current work, one that seems like the fruition of so many passions and gifts and previous longings that were lying in wait, and the question has arisen, “Am I willing to give this up if He asked, with complete confidence that He is for me and is always good?”
But something struck me as I meditated on these verses leading up to advent, a theme I’ve never noticed, presence, stillness, listening. When beckoned by God, Abraham responds, “Here I am” or “Hineni” in Hebrew. It expresses a total willingness to be available to the work of God, or in essence, complete presence. Our faith will never be ready for sacrifice before we are first willing to sacrifice our attention and busyness to hear the voice of God and listen to His promptings. Each time God beckons Abraham, He speaks his name twice, a sign that there was an intimacy between them. They were in relationship and in communion with each other. Yet, is this what my prayer looks like, or am I so focused on needs and even thankfulness that my time with God is usually filled with my own words, wantings, and wonderings, and less on the waiting and truly showing up saying, “Here I am”?
I also find this response of Abraham striking because he answers God’s call in the beginning BEFORE God asks him to sacrifice his son and AFTER. As Abraham is about to offer up his most precious gift on the altar, God calls out to him again from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham,” and again his reply, even after the devastating blow of God’s last request, Abraham responds, “Here I am”, giving presence to God in good times and in the worst of times. The good news is that because Abraham responded this way, still trusting a God who would ask such a challenging request, remaining in relationship and giving presence to hear from Him, he was able to hear God redeem the situation through his grace and save his son.
I am thankful for my current boss (and friend) who decided to sacrifice time at a leadership meeting a few weeks back to bring in a woman who has been a practicing spiritual director for 20 years. She is in the business of making room for God’s holy presence, which is always available, yet we are the ones who are often unavailable to notice. In our time as a team, Muslims and Christians, we practiced centering prayer, a discipline where you find stillness and space for opening yourself up to hearing from God. I struggled, wondering if I was doing it right, and constantly coming back to a holy word (I chose ABIDE) when my mind trailed off to the things I should be doing instead. The goal is to do this 20 minutes each day, we did 10, and it felt long yet, SO refreshing.
We are constantly in the middle of chatter, newsfeeds, pictures, comments you feel like you need to write, emails that need responses, children with endless demands, appointments that should be made or bills that should be paid: we cannot escape the noise of the modern (or mothering) world without discipline and intention. Even serving others can distract us from his presence as we are reminded of in the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:42); Jesus goes so far to as to say that Martha is busy with ten thousand things, yet so few are necessary, indeed only one: presence.
What is necessary is showing up in the moment, recognizing the gift of Jesus, and sitting at His feet. As we enter this advent season, waiting with hope for the Savior that will come, might we make space and time to BE in his presence. To listen and wait, and experience a truly living God who is at work today amidst us. May we hear Him call us by name, maybe twice, as He calls us to something momentous or to new beginnings or to sacrificial change or simply to the obedience of everyday devotion. What He has for us is good, and we need not but to show up with presence and say, “Here I am.”