This is part two of this story. Read part one here: Immeasurable More.
In the first book of the Bible, God makes a man called Abram a weighty promise: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you. I’ll make you a great nation and bless you.” What does Abram do? He goes. He packs up his family and leaves. There’s no “I can’t speak!” like Moses said or an extravagant “I’ll go to the death for you!” like Peter. The Bible says plain and simple: “So Abram went.”
But the story doesn’t end there. The author of Genesis goes on for eight more chapters before we see the promised offspring of Abram and his wife, Sarai. And those eight chapters contain beauty and heartache. Five chapters after God’s initial promise, He makes a more specific one: within the year, Sarai would have a son. This promise wasn’t as easy to believe.
I wonder what those years of waiting were like for Abram and his wife. A lot happened during that time – God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and his wife’s name to Sarah. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and because of Abraham’s petitions saved his family who lived there. Ishmael was born to the servant woman, Hagar – who was seen and saved by God.
Did Abraham doubt God’s promise?
Did he think he was crazy?
Did he wonder when he would see the promise unfold?
Was he content in his waiting?
Those months that followed my January Starbucks visit were hard. The words from God spoken on that day lingered as an aroma from the past, urging desire to the forefront of my heart with faint reminders of the truth of His character. But the theme of those months I notice as I look over my pages of journal entries, mixed in with the waiting, is that of loss.
I was standing at the Philadelphia Flower Show, surrounded by life, when I received a phone call telling me that my friend Noah was killed in a car accident.
My sister casually mentioned in one conversation that our dad’s coworker died. He was 65 and knew me before I was born. He also sold us our Christmas trees. One year we named ours after him.
I was sitting in the Detroit Airport when my roommate called to tell me that her boss, and friend, had cancer. She died a few weeks later on Easter Sunday.
Those are only three. There were more.
“I have found that as the bottom comes out from under me, the place where I have landed is more solid. More firm. And that when I asked God to make something beautiful from this, He responded that He already has. The beauty is in the pain” (March 2012).
When we love someone, the roots of their life become intertwined with our own. When their life is plucked from the ground, some of our roots get loosened along with them. We become less rooted in this life. Each of these deaths reminded me that there was something more, that this life isn’t all that there is.
I questioned everything. Why would God take a young man away from his wife and small children? Why death? Why pain? Why war? Why, God?
I found beauty in the questions. I found myself not demanding answers but feeling comfort in the asking. One day as I listed out my questions in my journal, there was a Tagalog phrase that repeated in my mind, one that I couldn’t remember the translation for at the time – “Hindi ko alam.” I don’t know.
I wrestled with the implications of God’s words, whispered in the winter, coming true. I questioned what it meant if they didn’t. Was He simply teaching me a lesson in faith? And was I really willing to move to the Philippines? Would I let Him entirely uproot me from my ground? Did I trust God that much?
In all of the questions, there were still some things that stayed sure in my heart – God had spoken to me and I wasn’t supposed to tell Trent. We talked on Skype once every one to two months and I found myself praying for him deeply. I knew that God would do what He would do and if God were to speak, Trent would hear Him. But to what end had God spoken?
In the New Testament’s letter to the Hebrews, the author commends Abraham’s faith. We nod in agreement because we see the purpose in his waiting – he became the father of Israel. But Abraham never saw the completion of the promise. He died in faith, “not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (Hebrews 11:13). His wife gave birth to a son, but he never saw his offspring as a “great nation.” That came later.
Just as death reminds us that this life is not our final destination, waiting reminds us that there is more to come. Time slows for those who wait and wonder; maybe that’s why God makes us wait, so we don’t breeze through life without marveling at its richness. The beauty is in the waiting.
Continue reading: The Rock God Moved