This is a follow up to last weeks post "Faith's Bitter Foe". Weavings has invited me to be a guest blogger for a post this month, so I started writing this. It turned out longer than I expected - too long for the guest blog post. I'll probably use an excerpt. But here I offer it in it's entirety. Inertia would keep me from posting it. It's getting close, but I still think it needs a bit more polishing. In posting, I'm hoping for some feedback. You can e-mail me directly or leave it as a comment.
“Thanks for calling me out.”
I had confronted my wife and we had just spent an hour talking through her issue. Now we were wrapping up.
“I should have talked to you three days ago, when I first noticed,” I said.
“Well, why didn’t you?”
“Because that’s my issue – inertia.”
It was late and we busied ourselves getting ready for bed. The conversation had ended with the perfect set up for a sequel.
Three days later we were driving home from a dinner date. A comfortable lull in the conversation and my wife broke the silence.
“Remember when you said that your issue is inertia? I guess I’ve noticed that, but I just haven’t had a label to for to it. That really does fit.”
So we revisited this - my wife asking if she does anything to aggravate my inertia and how she can help; me explaining my increasing awareness and desire to be different.
Isaac Newton observed that objects resist change in their state of movement. An object will remain at rest unless acted on by an external force. That principle of physics seems to spill over into my life. It plays itself out in countless ways – different tunes in the same key. I fail to take initiative.
So in the example that launched this reflection, I noticed a behavior in my wife that needed to be confronted. Confrontation is in the best interest of our family and her growth. But confrontation is unsettling and unpredictable. It can’t be scripted. I’m afraid of how it will play out. I can see the issue, but I don’t have a clear solution. So instead of a healthy process of confrontation, I rely instead on coping mechanisms. It takes three days to muster the courage to confront. This is just one of a myriad of examples.
Want another? Just before sitting down to write tonight, my wife reminded me of my intent to fix the gutters on the back of our house. After a hard rain this past week, she suggested I make this a higher priority. I’m not the handiest husband. Each new project is another opportunity to reveal my ineptness. So I procrastinate. I know the gutters need to be fixed, but I don’t want to look like a failure. To make matters worse, I worked on the gutters last year and thought I had fixed this problem. So this year I’ll step to the plate with one strike already on the count.
So again, I turn to Abraham for help. In my last post, an article in the current edition of Weavings, I reflect on Abraham’s struggle with fear in Genesis 15 – a familiar struggle for me. Hand in hand with fear is inertia, and God addresses this three chapters earlier, in Genesis 12, where God visits Abraham for the first of seven visits between the two recorded in Genesis. These visits are the story of a growing relationship and this is where the relationship begins.
It begins with an invitation, or a command really, but not one delivered with heavy handedness. Go. That is the one command in the passage, the only verb with imperatival force in the Hebrew. He is invited on a journey. And, like any journey, this journey has a “from” and “to,” a departure and a destination, a first step and a last step.
The point of departure is clearly defined. “Leave your country, your people, your father’s household.” Each phrase is more intimate, adding punch to this command.
Your country – geographic region, the familiar landscape
Your people – identity and culture, the familiar customs
Your father’s household – direct relatives, the familiar family.
He is to leave behind all that is familiar and comfortable and safe. This is an uprooting.
The clarity of the point of departure is matched by the murkiness of the destination - “to the land I will show you.” That seems wildly undefined. He is to uproot and set out with no clear path. Leave all that is familiar to go…somewhere. In the words of Alexander Maclaren, “To part with solid acres and get nothing but hopes of inheritance looks like insanity.” Insanity, indeed. Insanity enough to keep this body at rest, thank you very much.
How can he trade these solid acres for mere hopes? How can he pack up and set off with so little direction? How can he overcome inertia that keeps him rooted in place? The answer is faith. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went even though he did not know where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step - one step that breaks the inertia and sets him in motion. Abraham steps out in faith. No details of the trip are given, because none are needed. We need only know that he obeyed. Inertia is overcome. The obedience is as plain spoken as the command. “So Abram left, as God had told him” (Genesis 12:4).
And while the destination is unsettlingly misty, the promise is crystal clear. Some form of the Hebrew word “bless” (barach) is used five times in Genesis 12:2-3. This is God’s promise – you go and I will bless. That promise is enough to set Abraham in motion. He leaves all that is familiar to pursue God’s favor. And this seems a fitting depiction of faith – letting go of favorable circumstances to grasp the favor of God.
In offering this definition, I would note that this does not necessarily mean renouncing favorable circumstances. In letting go I am releasing my grip. Those favorable circumstances may not be lost, but they will not be grasped. Unfettered, they may linger or even settle by God’s good pleasure. A good job, good health, material prosperity, good friends – all are to be enjoyed as they come, but none should be grasped. My grip can only hold so much. Empty of other things, I can hold hard to the blessing of God.
And this is where I need help - to trust that his blessing is really the best thing to grasp; to believe that it is more real and substantive and satisfying than all that I must release. From confronting my wife, to fixing the gutters, to the myriad of ways I get stuck in a rut, God invites me to be an active agent. I keep choosing to be a passive recipient. My inertia is almost always a case of choosing what is expedient over what is best. This is what holds me back. Status quo may not be satisfying, but it is familiar. I find comfort in that familiarity.
Before I set out, I want a clear destination – the assurance that I will know what to say to my wife when I confront her, the guarantee that I will be able to fix the gutters right this time. God doesn’t offer me that. Instead, he calls me to be an active agent so he can bless. He will work through my initiative - sometimes in ways that I hoped, other times in ways I never would have imagined. In whatever way he works, this is his blessing. And this blessing is worth grasping.