Given that parents can find themselves in trouble with the authorities these days for letting their kids walk home alone from the neighborhood park, it’s unlikely that Abraham would be in the running for Dad of the Year were he still alive today.
It’s just as well that there was no Department of Children and Families back in Genesis times, because he would have been in all sorts of trouble with the sacrifice thing with Isaac. Imagine trying to explain that one to an earnest social worker. “Well, you see, the Lord Almighty…”
Yet while he may not qualify as Dad of the Year, in the book of Hebrews Abraham is of course identified as the Father of the Faith to those of us who believe, or who are trying our best to.
What’s encouraging to me about his example is that it’s a far from nice and tidy one. There’s all kinds of awkwardness, from the readiness to give up his only son—which, while an admirable picture of trust, also still leaves me scratching my head—to protecting his own skin by passing off his looker wife as his sister to Pharaoh.
But there’s some encouragement in his life for anyone who has felt similarly directed by God to give things up and go to a new place, metaphorically or geographically, and found themselves wondering where it all went wrong.
As I have read about Abraham’s life again, recently, what impresses me most is his doggedness, hanging in there with all his doubts and uncertainties. Consider that he heads off to where God has said he’s going to make of him a great nation, only for a great famine to break out instead (Gen. 12:10). So it’s off to Egypt for a season, and that awkward wife-sister ruse.
As time goes by and the prospects of fatherhood recede more, it would have been easy for Abraham to have given up and just accepted that, Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it looks like things aren’t going to work out after all.
But instead of allowing himself to get resigned in his disappointment, he got re-signed. He took the faith he could muster and went back to God for some more. He asked for clarity, for confirmation—for another sign. We see it twice in Genesis 15.
First God tells Abraham that He will be his great reward. Abraham says Terrific, but points out he has no offspring (so, in other words, Quite how is this going to work?)—to which God responds by telling Abraham to look outside at the stars in the sky. Then God promises Abraham all the surrounding land, and Abraham asks how he can be sure he will get it—to which God responds with a dramatic encounter of darkness and fire.
It’s interesting to me that when Abraham is cited in the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11, it’s not for feeling confident or appearing bold, but for “obeying” and “going.” In both of those actions there is space for uncertainty and timidity, each of which Abraham displayed at some point in his long journey.