Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned over the past 5 years of ministry is this: God isn’t just in here. He’s also out there.
There is an Old Testament story (Genesis 20) where Abraham and Sarah are traveling. They come to the land of the Negev, ruled by a pagan king named Abimelek. Because of Sarah’s beauty, Abraham is afraid the king will kill him and take Sarah to be his wife. So they agree upon a lie and pretend to be siblings instead of husband-and-wife. As expected, Abimelek takes Sarah as his wife.
Time passes. Quite a lot of time. Abimelek’s entire household becomes barren “for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife.” Here’s where things get interesting.
God speaks. But when He speaks, He speaks to the pagan outsider … which terrifies us a little. We much prefer when God only speaks to us (and the consolation-of-certainty that brings). We’re afraid of finding God in the other. It seems to be a betrayal of our faith. Perhaps even more terrifying, Abimelek listens and obeys! Which makes this a story of a faithful-outsider and a lying-insider. Hmm.
Over the past 5 years, I’ve begun to surrender my consolations of certainty. I still have a ways to go, but it has already borne such fruit!! It has done much needed work on my pride and all the subtle arrogance I hold on to. It forces me to admit that sometimes I am Abraham – the lying-insider in need of the faithful-outsider. This opens the way for making new friends in other communities with a posture of humility, resulting in honest two-way engagement! Because it isn’t just what I have to offer… it’s what I need to learn!
I love Jesus. I love the cross. I love my faith. I love how scripture doesn’t allow me to be arrogant-in-my-faith. I love the fact that He is too big for me to control … that He is too big to fit only on the inside.