Like several congregations in our cluster, my congregation of Immanuel Lutheran is about to start the process of calling a new pastor. I serve on the Mission and Life Committee which has the task of creating a current picture of our congregation as well as a vision of who we might become—who God is calling us to be. Pastor Paul Olsen, our interim pastor, shared this quote at our first meeting:
I think this quote applies not only to congregations, but to people as well. I’ve been thinking about what kind of faith and trust is required to step into an unknown future. On the brink of such a threshold or “liminal moment,” it’s unclear where to go next. We need to take the next step, but in what direction? Another quote Pastor Paul shared:
In Genesis, Chapter 12, God tells Abraham to leave his father’s home and all that is familiar to him and set out. And Abraham does, with Sarah and all his possessions, into a vast desert without a clear destination. This is a threshold moment. Talk about not knowing what comes next! For most of us, it’s a deeply uncomfortable place to be.
God also promised Abraham and Sarah a son. This was when Abraham was 75, but according to Genesis, Isaac wasn’t born until Abraham was nearly 100 years old. He and Sarah had to wait another quarter century for an answer to their prayer. Sarah was impatient and intervened with her own solution, which caused a lot of heartache all around.
In Sarah’s defense, I couldn’t wait patiently for 25 years for the answer to a prayer I desperately wanted fulfilled. Maybe because I tend to think that my life is the main event, the big drama happening on the main stage. But God sees every infinitesimal human story, the long, long relay of God’s beloved people, and God is always working on that story—a story in which God’s infinite love is passed down, amplified, shared, multiplied. A story that may require something other than an immediate answer to my prayer. God is always thinking about the long game. A game in which we may be stewards for something larger God has in mind—the fulfillment of which might take place 25 years from now, maybe longer.
I once read that the essence of faith isn’t belief God will answer our prayers, but having patience as we wait for God’s answer. In this summer of heat and smoke, I sometimes feel I am in a liminal space, no longer in the thick of the pandemic, but not entirely out of it—or its fallout. It’s easy to grow impatient as we wait for God to answer our prayers about the future.
Perhaps when we find ourselves in such a moment, we can ask, “What might be the long game God has in mind?” When I feel lost and adrift, it’s comforting to remember God’s purpose for me—for each us—is so much bigger than we are.