The Sunsets of Our Lives and Father Abraham

November 5, 2019

Yesterday, as dusk approached, I went for a walk with God in the fading California sunshine. We talked about one of his oldest friends: Abraham, whom the Bible calls “the father of us all,” not genetically mind you, but spiritually. Those of us who follow the call of the God of Abraham will find ourselves retracing at least some outlines of his life, even without realizing we are doing so. That’s how it is when God puts a little Abraham in you. Or maybe a lot.

On the tail end of the walk I reflected on one of my personal resemblances to Abraham: I am now the same age that he was when God told him,

“Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

(B'reishit/Genesis 12:1-3)

He was seventy-five when he got that Divine nudge. And there I was, walking in the California sunset reflecting, “Seventy-five. Me too.”  And so it is.

Later that evening I was rummaging around on YouTube. I do it all the time. I bumped into a video of Sam Bailey, a woman who won the X-Factor competition in the U.K. in 2013. Wonderful, strong, emptional, dominating voice. One of her songs, “New York, New York.”  You know, the old Frank Sinatra song, “If I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere . New York, New York. I cried. (Here it is). Listen. (For New Yorkers, this is mandatory).

Here in my California sunset years I am gearing myself up, along with my wife Naomi, for a great leap eastward, back to New York City, from which I came to California fifty years ago. Expletive! That’s a long time. When I came here, I left behind a mother and a father who both died years later three thousand miles away from their only son. I don’t want to do that to my children. I figure I at least owe them the courtesy of dying within goodbye distance. Besides, like Abraham, I have a sneaking holy suspicion that he has work for me to do back there in that City that has never left me, despite my own departure fifty years ago. Just like the Blues Brothers, “I’m on a mission from God.”  But not simply just like them.  No, it’s also just like Abraham.

We shouldn’t miss the point of such opportunities. I am well aware that wife Naomi and I are going to live in a very confined space in New York. It will be a cell compared to the modest home we have out here. But that’s not the point. I am also aware that living in New York is very expensive, and seems well beyond our means. That’s not the point either.

So what is the point? The point is when God speaks, you listen. When he nudges, you budge. When he tells an old man, or an old woman, or any of us at any age, to get going to a situation where about which he has not specified the details . . . in such situations, there is only one right response. Unless you’re Jonah. The only right response is you pack.

And regardless of whatever other trendy metrics people might amass to evaluate such actions, there is only one metric that matters.  It is this. Obedience is success.

Accept no substitutes.

And whatever sunset you find yourself walking in, listen for his voice and when he points in a direction, get going. Leave the details to Abraham's travel agent. He's been doing it a long time.

4 comments on “The Sunsets of Our Lives and Father Abraham”

  1. Your Avrahamic retrospective evoked in me a question that may now be appropriate for me to pose to you. Avraham didn't travel directly in a single stage to his ultimate destination in the land that HaShem intended to show him. He and his extended family spent some amount of time at an interim way-station in Haran where Avraham "made many souls". When Avraham ultimately moved onward with at least some of those souls attached to his household, he left most of the family behind because they remained there, and his only apparent contact with them was to send a servant to them in search of a suitable wife for his son Yitzhak. Still later, his grandson Yakov would also flee there to seek refuge from his angry brother Esav, only returning some 21 years later with two wives, two concubines, a flock of children, and numerous flocks and herds. So my question to you, Stuart, is whether you might envision your final residence in that same land of HaShem's promise, which is now the modern Jewish nation Israel. Now, if you were to "make souls" in New York for a while along the way, and bring some with you to Israel, I think we could still find room for you all. I myself would like to see you happily settled into the Jerusalem area where we might participate in common social activities together occasionally, but maybe your hankering for a New York sort of experience would have you gravitate toward Tel Aviv instead (though its location might seem more reminiscent of LA than NY). So, consider and tell me what you think, about how much will you budge in response to that nudge?

    1. Perhaps our only response to God"s calling should be "hineni," following His prompting as much as is shown for now; willing to move onward if further prompted. The key would be in our listening, rather than taking action on our own initiative.

      1. Listening is good, Louis, but obeying is even better. Listening and looking are necessary to determine times and seasons, and the specific performance of obedience. However, obedience and discipleship require greater active initiative. Stuart cited the notion of a "nudge" from HaShem, which implies a degree of subtlety. Regrettably, sometimes what we perceive as a mere subtle nudge is merely the result of our insensitivity to recognize something as unsubtle as a whack from a disciplinary paddle when it has been applied to the seat of our (mis-)understanding. So it may be with written, black-and-white scriptural imperatives that are in actuality clear as clear as can be, and yet we gloss over them, or reinterpret them in ways that lessen their force or apply it only to "somebody else" in a different time or place or circumstance. Somewhat more subtle are things like prophetic implications. Making aliyah at this time in history can be interpreted as within that category -- though it can also be felt as a clarion call to an immutable mandate. The former seems to demand merely consideration. The latter demands initiative and action. Now, as you may note in my prior post, I do make allowance for listening, deliberation, and a progressively-staged response -- but I also suggest that a more challenging goal is not to be ignored. The "hineni" response is not merely: "I'm listening, Lord."; it is also: "I'm at your service and ready to act upon instructions already received and any further elaborations that are imminent.".

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