When I was seventeen, I got on a Greyhound bus in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and got off in downtown Seattle. I had never been west of the badlands before, never seen mountains. For the next two years as I went to college in Seattle I became intimately familiar with the highways between Washington and Minnesota. That experience of being uprooted, of being called (and I do believe I was called, though I couldn't have said so at the time) away from my home, my family, and everything familiar, had a deep impact on my life. What's more, that experience made room in me for God to do a lot of work that needed to be done if I was going to be willing to be used for his purposes!
In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham (at that time still named Abram) to leave what was familiar -- his family, his father's household, his own country -- and go "to a land I will show you". God doesn't even fill in the destination -- he just calls Abraham to go. Yet Abraham obeys. He packs up Sarah and his nephew Lot and all their possessions and he goes. This obedience becomes the launching pad God uses in Abraham's life to bless Abraham, and to bless all creation.
We don't know if Abraham had a chance to practice. Did God call him to obey in some smaller things, and then reward him for his obedience? God often does that, teaching us to be faithful in little things so that we have confidence to obey in the big things. We don't know if God did that with Abraham.
What we do know, though, is that Abraham had some experience in this kind of big move. At the end of Genesis 11 we read that Abraham's father Terah picked the family up from Ur of the Chaldeans (in what is today southeastern Iraq) and moved them to Haran, far to the northwest. So at some point, Abraham was part of his family's move from Ur to Haran. Did Terah move the family because God called him to do it? Maybe it was because business was better in Haran? Maybe they had bad neighbors in Ur, or maybe the local economy was bad. Or maybe Terah just had itchy feet and wanted to move. Whatever the reason, God set that precedent in Abraham's life. When God's call came to Abraham years later to pick up and move "to a land I will show you" Abraham at least had an experience he could draw on.
What precedents has God set in your life? When you look back to childhood, when you look to your younger days, what precedents are there that might be preparing you for God's call?
My move from Minnesota to Seattle when I was seventeen didn't come out of the clear blue sky. My cousin Karen had gone to the same Bible college I was going to attend, and I had talked to her about her experience. Deeper in my past, I had heard my father tell stories of his own yearning to go to forestry school in New York when he was a young man. His older brother's death at Omaha Beach changed those plans, but Dad's yearning and his stories of "what if" shaped me and prepared me for God's call.
What preparations, what precedents has God put in your life? And how might he be calling you today? Is he calling you to move physically? Maybe, but probably not. More likely he's calling you to leave behind a habit, an attitude, an obsession or an idolatry, and move toward a new phase of dedication to him and openness to his Spirit. It can be a frightening thing to take those first steps of leaving the familiar behind and launching into something new. But rest assured that God has prepared you for this moment, and he is faithful to lead you into a good place!