Early in the Biblical narrative, God called Abraham to “go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1, NRSV). Over the centuries since, God has been calling his people to journey out of familiar and comfortable surroundings to places just over the horizon of their imaginations.
The pattern of invitation becomes fairly predictable in the scriptures. At first, there is often reluctance borne of feelings of inadequacy to the task. For Moses, it was his speaking ability; for Jeremiah, his age; for Gideon, his family background. Second, there is God’s reassurance. Sometimes, God argues back (“Who gives speech to mortals? … Is it not I, the Lord?” [Exodus 4:11, NRSV]). Sometimes, God simply promises His presence (“But I will be with you…” [Judges 6:16, NRSV]). Finally, there is acceptance of the invitation.
It sometimes feels as if these invitations offer true choices—Nehemiah’s call to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple; Jesus’ call to Peter, James and John to leave their nets to follow him; Mary’s call to bear the Christ child. Other times, the invitations feel more constrained, calling us to submit to rather than fight circumstances not of our own choosing. Think Joseph, Daniel or Esther.
When God calls, there are always true risks and real challenges to overcome. The journey is never easy. The call involves tasks that cannot possibly be accomplished apart from God’s presence and power. Always, the adventure involves the grand privilege of partnering with God in accomplishing His purposes in the world. Those who respond always see God in new and surprising ways and enlarge their capacity to experience His faithfulness.
In this edition of Houghton, we are featuring contemporary journeys of Houghton alumni, faculty and students who, like Abraham, have ventured out of their own familiar spaces to places God wants to show them. May these stories inspire you to listen attentively and wait eagerly for your own next divine invitation.
Grace and Peace to you today.
Shirley A. Mullen, Class of 1976