Thought for the week - 13 March
There are many joys in the bringing up and nurture of children whether that be as parent, grandparent, godparent, aunt, or uncle. Seeing them develop, crawl, walk, speak their first words and so on. There are more challenging sides to it of course – times of illness for example. One of the most difficult experiences for parents is when children begin to discover the possibility of not doing just what they are told, getting into danger – and most painful of all in some ways is when children begin to not tell the truth. Who broke that ornament? – not me! – he says with the pieces in his hand!
Of course, for the children too, there is a not always pleasant learning curve. Parents make mistakes, parents sometimes must guide, discipline – punish even. One of the most difficult experiences is realising that parents can’t always do what the child wants and don’t always keep their promises in the way the child expects. “I promise we will do that next Monday” says Dad – then work changes. You know what I mean. Children sadly come to learn from their human experiences, which can sometimes seem deeply disappointing, and to the childish mind – NOT FAIR!
We adults carry that experience with us into adulthood. That’s probably what has happened with Abram in our first reading today. God promises to make Abram the father of a great nation, greater than the number of the stars. But, for Abram, it seems not to be happening. He has no child, no heir. Abram for a time does not trust God and seeks to plan and make his own future – he thinks that he needs somehow to help God fulfil his promises. He will make his slave his heir. But God repeats his promise – your own child shall be your heir. Abram restates his trust in the promise. But Abram still isn’t there yet. Next, he doubts the promise of the land. Once again Abram does as God asks.
But despite carrying out the ritual God asks of him as a sign of their mutual agreement Abram sinks into a deep depression. “A deep and terrifying darkness descended on him.”
How has our human experience affected our trust in God? Do we see God and his promises in human terms? Do we set a pattern for our own future and expect God to fit in with that? My guess is of course yes!
God has entered into a covenant with each of us who has been baptised, all who do what he asks of us. He promises us eternal life. He promises that we shall see our loved ones again. He does NOT promise that our life will be easy or without troubles – even deep troubles. We may try to plan our way round these troubles. Even Jesus did that in the garden of Gethsemane. “Lord let this cup pass from me” pleads Jesus before his arrest. But in the end, he trusts in God’s promise – not to save him from suffering but to bring him through it.
Few if any of us will go through our life without a deep and terrifying darkness descending upon us at some time. Through our human experiences we can feel God has badly let us down.
We break our promises to God all the time, like Abram we plan our own way, and try to make every bit of our own future. Like Abram, sometimes we must just “let go and let God” as the saying goes.
As a child we are heartbroken when our parents let us down. Our greatest challenge is to trust God despite that – even when the deep darkness makes that seem impossible.
For Abram – later called Abraham, there were greater tests and darkness ahead – as there will be for us no doubt.
Our journey through Lent to Easter is designed to help us realise, even when we can’t see it, that God will bring us through it; that after the darkness comes dawn.