Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Look Back at My Move Ten Years Later - Be Careful What You Teach Teenagers

One of my favorite chances to speak when I lived in Nashville was the opportunity our church's Youth Minister gave me to write dramatic scripts based on Biblical characters that our youth were studying during youth camp.

In 2000, the character was Abraham, and the drama dealt with God’s telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. I wrote the drama with a voice over Abraham and a modern day character, played by me of course, who was dealing with God’s telling him to make a sacrifice.

I had not thought about that script for a couple of years until I found it while unpacking at my new home in Texas. I was hit between the eyes.

You see, the modern day character in my script was asked to sacrifice his job, home, and secure life in order to follow God’s call to another place.  I had some very convincing language in his lines about not understanding what God wanted, but if that was what God called me to do then, like Abraham, I was willing to make the sacrifice.  I would, to quote the script, “quit my job, put the house on the market, and tell my wife it is time to leave.”

It was a pretty good script.  It got the kids’ attention as they studied about following Gods commands, even when they do not understand them, and about being willing to sacrifice. Little did I think that it applied to me.  I had a secure law practice, a good home, and a life of church service that was, I had no doubt, squarely down the middle of God’s plan for my life.

Now hear me well - I think I was right.  Looking back, I believe that I was in fact doing my best to pursue God’s will.  I don’t think that you have to be a wandering prodigal making your way through the wilderness before God calls you somewhere else.  I don’t think the Bible indicates that Abraham was on the wrong road. In fact, I think it was precisely because he had shown such an ability to follow God that he was called to bigger and better things.

But what I tried to teach the kids through that script was that God is interested first and foremost in our listening to Him and our obeying Him. Sometimes, He explains Himself, and often times, He does not. Our understanding is not the point.  Our following is the point.

n   Noah did not understand about rain.
n   Joseph did not understand about dreams.
n   Moses did not understand flaming plants.
n   Caleb did not understand how his group of wanderers could defeat the giants in the land.
n   Balaam did not understand how a donkey could talk.
n   Ruth did not understand why she should go to the wheat fields.
n   Samuel did not understand why he was to anoint the youngest of Jesse’s sons.
n   Nehemiah did not understand why he should leave his cushy job as cupbearer to the king just to go build a wall.
n   Esther had no idea what her cousin meant by his phrase “for such a time as this.”
n   Job did not understand much of anything that was happening to him.
n   Solomon did not understand why all his toiling was a chasing after the wind.
n   Elijah did not understand why he should pour water on the altar.
n   Ezekiel did not understand why the Spirit led him into a desert full of bones.
n   Hosea did not understand why God wanted him to marry a prostitute.
n   Jonah did not understand about the worm and the weed.
n   Habakkuk did not understand why there were no grapes on the vine.
n   Matthew did not understand why he should leave his tax booth.
n   Zaccheus did not understand why he should climb down the tree.
n   Peter did not understand why he could not stay on the mountain.
n   Paul did not understand why he could not see.
n   Ananias did not understand why he had to meet Paul.
n   And, for a moment, Jesus did not understand why a cup was not taken from him.

These heroes have two things in common.  One is that they did not understand.  The other is that they followed anyway.  Some needed a little push - be it a big fish or a big fire or an audible voice - but they followed.

And that is what I taught some teenagers. If Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, then they should be willing to make whatever relatively small sacrifice God asked of them.

Be careful what you teach teenagers.

I have no explanation for why God wanted me to move.  I had lots more to do in Nashville, in my church and in my Sunday School class and in my community. I was positioned to have some serious influence for the cause of Christ in Nashville over the next decades.

Now I am in Keller, Texas.  It makes no sense, but I went, and ten and a half years on the other side, I can see that it was right. I do not know that I can articulate yet why it was right, but God led us here.  He has not yet told us exactly why we had to come down out of our tree, to go to the wheat fields, perhaps to go build a wall or maybe even fight some giants.  He has not told us why we cannot see the whole plan.  We do not know why the call came at such a time as 2003.

Like a car on a Tennessee highway (my Texas friends don’t really understand this example) whose headlights only see to the top of the next hill, we can only see so far ahead on our road.  Of course, when we get to that spot - to the top of that hill - we can see further down the road.  We never actually reach the point where we can see no further.  And I found an old script that reminded me that that is ok.  I found a script by a very wise playwright that taught me that it is not the understanding that is important. It is the following, for we cannot find God unless we follow where He is leading us.

I recently used this story in a devotional with some young professionals, and one friend was surprised that someone like me, a lawyer and a debater devoted to logic, could express so freely that my faith includes significant lack of understanding.  To me, however, it is entirely logical to conclude that there are questions to which I have no answer.  The reason is not that there is no answer - that would not be logical.  The reason is that while I do not have the capacity to find or understand the answer, there is One who does.  It is entirely logical to me that the Creator, the Maker, the Master, the Lord, the One holds keys to locks that I do not yet even comprehend exist.

That, after all, is the message of the story of God's call to Abraham to take Isaac and the knife and the fire and go to a distant mountain. It was the moral of a little skit I wrote thirteen years ago for some bright young minds, never realizing how directly it would apply to me.

Be careful what you teach teenagers.

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