It was probably a good thing that Abraham and Sarah didn’t have any children when God called them away from Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2; Hebrews 11:8ff). We’re not given any details about how it all transpired so we have to use our imagination, but when Abraham poked his head inside the tent and told Sarah to start packing it’s reasonable to assume that somewhere in her response was the question, “Where are we going?” To which Abraham would have replied, “I don’t know.” I’m guessing this conversation occurred multiple times during the course of their journey—marked each time by an increase of intensity and exasperation.
When the sojourners finally arrived in the land they had left so much and traveled so far to reach, they didn’t live as homesteaders, staking their claim upon it, but as nomads—highly cognizant of the fact that they were strangers there. They lived out the remainder of their days in this manner, as did their children and grandchildren, not knowing exactly where the currents of life would lead them, but firmly entrenched in their belief in Him who held the future. Their biblical epitaph was that they “were still living by faith when they died,” (Hebrews 11:13).
Faith embraces the unpredictable. When we are able to see faith as a relational act as opposed to involving the impersonal like fate, karma, or the alignment of the stars, it will help us to appreciate and understand its element of uncertainty (as opposed to being arbitrary). Uncertainty is embedded in every relationship. Most of us enter into marriage understanding (to some degree), that we are unable to see over the first hill in the road. Parenting is no different. Yet none of this stops us from pursuing and enjoying these relationships.
If all of this is true, then it means we can’t have a reasonable expectation of answering all of the questions or anticipating all scenarios in regard to our faith driven future — it’s not the nature of our journey. Someone asks us, “Where exactly is this going?” We have two choices: we can lie to them or tell them what Abraham told Sarah—we don’t know. (None of this is meant to encourage sloppiness or lack of preparation and planning—only to recognize that such things are not meant to be omnipotent).
It seems to me that Paul’s preaching tours provide a template for our lives. It appears that Paul planned out much of these journeys. He was called by the Spirit to go (Acts 13:1-4), but where he and his companions went seems to have been left up to them much of the time (14:5-7, 15:36ff). However, there were times when God intervened to change their plans (16:7-10). That’s the way it is for most of us, isn’t it? We make plans and we have a general sense of where we think things are going, but we recognize that God can intervene at any time.
So we embrace the unpredictable. We may not always like it, but we must grow to the point that we do not fear it and allow it to paralyze us into inaction. This was the sad story of the one talent man. His master had better things planned for him, but he was too afraid to see and embrace it. As a consequence, he missed out on what his master had in store for him. In contrast, Abraham and Sarah found faith for their journey by setting their hearts on God’s goodness rather than over focusing on their temporary situations (Hebrews 11:13-16).
They knew where they were going even when they didn’t know where they were going.