No Tracks in the Desert

by Brad Griffith

Where are you going, Abraham?

“I don’t know.”

It wasn’t because he lacked a GPS. It wasn’t because he was too stubborn to ask for directions. Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had packed their bags and forsook the security of a familiar place and a comfortable life without any clue about a destination or where they would lay their heads at night. They did this, not in search of fame or riches (though they would find both), but because a voice in the darkness had said, “Go to a land I will show you.” It wasn’t just any voice. It was, as Andrew Peterson sings, a voice of love and thunder deep. It was the kind of voice you can’t ignore, because to hear it is to be changed by it. It was the voice of the God who created the heavens and the earth, now creating a new life for them both. Abraham may not have known where he was going, but there was no denying the call.

In the story of Abraham, we find a God who first issues forth a call as irresistible as a desert oasis and then provides no instructions for finding the precious water and shade. Maybe you’ve been lost out there in the hot sands; maybe you’re out there now. You were called to a new school or a new city. You were called to a vocation or place of service. You were called to open your heart and your home to a child who hadn’t been sufficiently given either. This calling was bold and exciting when you received it, but soon you’re left wondering, “Now what? Where am I supposed to be going with this?”

Abraham’s call had come with a promise. Although he and Sarah had no children, and although they both were well beyond child-bearing years, Abraham would become the father of many nations. But how? Sometimes our callings beget more questions than answers. The answer to all of these questions, as Abraham learned, is “God will provide.” That is a lesson hard-learned for most of us, and it was no less difficult for Abraham. The temptation to work out his own solution, chart his own way, create his own means of fulfilling what God had promised, led only to pain and conflict. Abraham’s best moments were when he recalled the voice, remembered the promise, and simply believed God.

footrpintsSo, like Abraham, we wait. Even when the waiting feels like it’s leading us away from our calling (I’m not getting any younger, God), we wait. Even when we feel lost, sand stretching beyond our vision in every direction, we keep walking. We plow on, plodding along with one dusty foot in front of the other through the wilderness sand, the exact opposite of a road. And in the absence of asphalt and signposts, while we walk and while we wait, we do what we can to serve God on this day (the one we are given) and in this place (the place where He has brought us). We rest in Him, wherever we may lay down our heads at night. We recall the voice, remember the promise, and choose to simply believe God.

To Abraham, it may have seemed like God was lagging behind, trailing him like the desert wind that covered his tracks and made his past as inaccessible as his future. In truth, God was way ahead. He was forty-two generations ahead, to be exact. That’s how long it took for the promise to find its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. It was through Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham, that the many nations would be gathered to God. It was through Jesus, the promised Son, the provided Lamb, that the road would be paved in the wilderness, a highway for Abraham’s many children. And Jesus does not abandon those children. He will not leave us orphaned, destitute, and directionless. He has walked this desert before, and He has indeed prepared the way for us. We cannot see Him over the blinding horizon. We cannot always discern His ancient footpath. But we have heard His words, and we know their sound in the night. His voice of deepest love calls out to us, thundering through the trackless sands: “Come follow Me.”

Our call also comes with a promise: the presence of Jesus. With this promise, Jesus reshapes the story of our journey. Our call is no longer about going somewhere strange to us (though that may be true), but about following where Jesus has been and coming to where Jesus is. We know that we will make it there to Him, though we do not know the way. With Jesus, “I don’t know” is not a reason to turn back, but an invitation to move forward in faith.

Where are you going, Jesus?

“Come and see.”