*Miller Moore, Without Fear Of The Unknown, Flickr
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Scripture - Genesis 12.1-3
1The Living One spoke to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. 2I will bless you and make your descendants a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. 3I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will curse anyone who curses you. Everyone on the earth will be blessed because of you [or, by you all peoples of the earth will bless themselves].
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I have been much encouraged by Genesis 12.1ff. This passage has been one of my favorites to share when speaking in Christian congregations. Partly, this is because my life has been one of setting out, again and again, to a new place. I came up in a settled community - you lived there from birth to passing on. My dad, for example, has lived in four different houses - all four are within an area of one-and-a-half miles. My life, since leaving home in 1979, has been an unpredictable journey geographically and within and often a not-knowing-where.
And "Now, here I go, again, to another unknown place," I wrote June 28, 2005. I wrote, "I am enthused; I have concern. Such wandering and journeying both allures me by the adventure and intimidates me by the uncertainties." And, now, today, here I go again. There have been many moves since that June notation. Now, I plan to move to a new place and Work. I am to move near where I was raised, but in a location I have not lived before. I am not as enthused as far as emotions or feeling as uncertain, as in 2005 - seems I have learned to live from the inside-out more. I can say, "I am subtly thankful, sensing a rightness and peace. A little anxious about where I will live and about practical details of transition. I feel taken care of, in some undefined but real way."
I am encouraged, not just now, but repeatedly in my life, by the words “the land that I will show you.” Indeed, I once was so drawn to the adventure of moving and facing the unknown that I had to stay at one place, partly to learn how to deal more maturely with the familiar place, rather than moving on quickly to the unfamiliar place.
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We move on in different ways, and geographical is only one of them. Moving on and to the unknown can entail a change in a relationship or vocation, a promotion at work, or an addition of a new child to the family. Moving on can mean a marriage or a divorce; moving on can mean loss of a spouse who moves on to the Other Side and we move on here without that one. Moving on to the unknown can mean suddenly getting a sizeable increase in money or having to learn to live with much less money - since 2005, indeed, I was once in tears, not knowing how I would survive money-wise until the end of the month - less than a week away, and I once was a few days from living out of my truck, completely homeless, and I lived legally homeless for several years.
Zen Teacher, John Daido Loori, in Riding the Ox Home: Stages on the Path of Enlightenment, speaks of a “movement toward the edge of practice,” which is followed by “pulling back.” Loori describes this as a “cyclic venture towards the unknown and a retreat back to the safe.” Loori observes that this place of safety is an “increasingly unsatisfying place of familiar patterns.”
Loori teaches that we, through meditation, get familiar with the “edges of the unknown.” This is, in the narrative of Abram, Abram leaving his familiar and familial home toward the place “I will show you.” Notice, the Living One does not tell Abram exactly where he is going, the Living One does not name it. When we name things, that gives us a sense of control. This may seem harsh, this call of the Living One, but Abram is assured that the unfamiliar, unnamed place will be the place of blessing. He does not know the place, now, but he will become famous in that place, later. At least, so goes the story, and he is famous there in oral traditions of that place and Scripture.
All that God has for Abram is past the edges of the familiar. He will never become Abraham, a newly named and destined man, unless he moves on with a "Yes" to a place still unknown to him. Abram has to choose between the familiar or journey beyond the edges of the known. We do, too. But how do we do this?
Loori says that our meditation is an “engaging our edges.” Then, as we do this, our confidence deepens. The unknown becomes more positively inviting and less threatening.
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We proceed to this unfamiliar, however, by being faithful where we are. We want to be responsive to the leading of the Divine Presence. We do not want to run into the unknown as some ego trip. If we are faithful where we are, externally and internally, we can be assured things will change - are changing already. Being faithful where we are prepares us to be faithful where Spirit leads us. We are meant to move from horizon to horizon, from question to answer to question …, and from “place” to “place.” We are be-coming. The spiritual life is an adventure, not a destination. We are on an Unending Journey of Love-to-Love and Love-in-Love.
Now, I have not given an answer to the how of moving on, really. I am not sure there is a how. The traditions that have most informed my life have taught me that in some sense we are moved on, and what moves us on is Grace. What can we do? The most important thing is to say "Yes." In some mysterious way, when we are ready, Life moves us to where we are needed. That move was preceded by a preparation we may not have discerned at all or clearly. Our "Yes" is by Grace and for Grace, and that "Yes" is the "Yes" of Grace.