Friday, July 1, 2011

On Moving

TITLE: On Moving
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 30 June 2011

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives, And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you;” (Gen 12:1)
MAIN POINT: Reflections on Moving to a new House. Lessons on faith, and holy urgency.

This week, my family moved again to another city in the lower mainland in Greater Vancouver. It is our third move in 3 years. Each time we shift, we head East. This is because property prices in the West are increasingly unaffordable. For those of you who think that we are insane, what we are doing is nothing compared to the year 2004. Back then we manage 4 moves in 1 year, one of them across he Pacific Ocean!

Still, I hate to move. Each time it happens, I have to pause my normal work, re-prioritize my reading/writing commitments, re-schedule my appointments, and many more. I joke with my wife that each time we move, we find some things, and we lose some. Moving frequently involves double the work. For instance, we have to clean two houses. We have to pack our stuff in the old house, and unpack our stuff in the new house. We have to stop the electric and gas utilities in one house, and to start the same in another house. We move so much that I am glad some of my stuff remained in boxes, ready to be moved at anytime.

As I write this belated article of SabbathWalk, I cannot help but feel that amid all the craziness, there is something to learn from. I think about the Patriarch Abraham. Often heralded as a man of faith, I begin to see glimpses of why Abraham’s ancient step of faith is still a popular model for modern times. This week, I share 3 lessons about moving.

A) Moving is a Step of Faith

Following God’s direct instruction to Abraham, the Scriptures record an amazing step of obedience.

“So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” (Gen 12:4)

What obedience! What a prompt response! What a step of faith! There is no mention of Abraham bargaining with God about his step of faith. There is no request to delay his departure for an unknown land. There is no explicit question from Abraham about where his destination is going to be.

For my family, we struggle a lot with each move. We deliberate over the pros and cons. We consider the impact on our children. We pray over how it will affect our daily commute and our links to the neighbourhood. Truth is, we cannot imagine us behaving like Abraham, who simply ‘went forth.’

Abraham was 75 years old when he left the land of Ur. All in all, he had about 70 people with him in this huge move. For me to move the stuff for 5 persons is already a tall order. Imagine 70! That is about 14 times the size of my family. Just think of the logistics. Perhaps, back then, there is not so much stuff. There are no computers. There are no books. There are no big furniture or electronics, or electrical appliances to care about. Simply put, moving with 70 people is no simple feat.

B) Moving into Unfamiliar Territory

It boggles me to think about someone with 70 dependants traveling together to an unknown destination. All he knows is that the LORD will show him the place. There is no itinerary. There is no clear destination point. There is no guarantee of how they are going to survive the unknown. Despite this, Abraham left in obedience.

In our modern times, we move only when things are more certain. We do all our budgeting. We make meticulous plans. I remember one student who contacted me via email just before coming to Canada to study at Regent College. She had everything planned out to the very last detail. How long to stay? Budget for every single detail, from housing to tuition fees; from banking to various logistics. She peppered me with all kinds of questions to the point that I feel she has a problem with living with uncertainty.

In an Internet Age, where Google can feed us all kinds of information worldwide, we are increasingly reliant on information technology for security. If we cannot find it on Google, we may even panic. We are living in times where the uncertain, the unfamiliar, and the unknown are increasingly unacceptable for daily living. Unfortunately, faith requires us to step into the unknown. It needs us to swim often in unfamiliar territory. In uncertain situations, faith extends a hand to us to take. Here is the hard truth. As far as faith is concerned, being too careful can be an act of ‘un-faith.’ It can even lead to failure.

The OMF Missionary, Oswald Sanders has this to say:

A great deal more failure is the result of the excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.” (Oswald Sanders)

Jesus says:
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)
In order for growth, we need to take a leap of faith. Without allowing ourselves to die to self, how else can we free ourselves from the kingdom of self? Only then we are ready to move into the unknown.

C) Getting Ready to Move

The third learning point I have is about our readiness to move. As Christ followers on earth, we are called to be God’s agents for heralding the kingdom of God in heaven and on earth. We pray that often in the LORD’s prayer. Unfortunately, too many people are simply too complacent with their present stability. They hate change so much that they are willing to forgo an opportunity to take a leap of faith, choosing instead to lean on fate.

For the Christian, we are called to take the adventure of faith. This is best done by inculcating in ourselves an attitude, a readiness to move when we are called. This readiness is what prepares each of us to take a step of faith into the unknown.

D) A Holy Urgency

We need a holy urgency to make known the kingdom of God in our lives. Otherwise, we will become stagnant in our Christian walk. We will be complacent thinking that what we have known in the past will suffice for the future. Martin Luther once said that every believer ought to live each day as if Jesus died yesterday, resurrected today, and will come again tomorrow. A holy urgency will lead to holy action by people desiring to obey a Holy God. We cannot let our desire for stability overwhelm holy urgency. The former (desire for stability) easily chokes our spiritual hunger, deceives us with a false sense of security, and weakens our desire to share the Good News. The latter (holy urgency) increases our longing for God, clarifies that only faith in Christ is eternal security, and strengthens our resolve to be disciples of Jesus.

Moving is hard. It can be frustrating. It is one of the highest stresses of life. Yet, it is also a leap of faith. A step into the unknown. The truth is, change will somehow get us one day. If we do not change now, we might be forced to change later. If that is the case, why don’t we make the leap of faith sooner than later? The need for holy urgency is powerfully given by Jesus:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matt 16:25)

There are far too many people in churches who choose to play safe. They despise change. They do not want to venture into new territory. In fact, people who stubbornly refuse to change their mindset is most vulnerable to 'forced change' in the future. Helen Keller writes:

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

I am no super saint. Neither do I see my move as a big example in terms of faith. What I can say is that faith requires us to keep moving, even to unfamiliar territory. Keep getting ready to move, with the Holy Spirit as our Guide. Keep a good sense of holy urgency, with God’s kingdom foremost in mind.

That said, I hope not to move again anytime soon. But again, life is unpredictable, right?

Thought: Risk aversion is another way of saying: “I trust myself more than I trust God.


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