Abraham’s Listening Heart
There is a tremendous difference between telling God your plans and God telling His plan for you. Compared to God’s plan for us, our own plans are anemic, small minded, limited in scope. God’s plans for us are beyond what we can ever hope for or imagine. (See Eph 3)
To move past the tendency of “following our own plan” and rather “follow the plan of God” we will need three things: faith, a listening heart, and a willingness to enter the test by trusting in God’s promises. Faith is needed to listen to God. In fact, faith is needed to grow in silence before God, and silence before God enables one to grow in faith. The level of our faith in God depends upon how well we listen to God. God looks for men, fathers, to whom He can entrust His plan, His promises; He looks for good listeners who have enough faith to listen to Him.
If we demonstrate consistent faithfulness to entering the silence and listening, God will entrust us to do something for Him. This invitation includes a promise and a test. God has many promises or gifts which he desires to bestow upon our fatherhood. But the reception of this divine gift depends upon our ability to wait, listen and faithfully enter the test. Entering the test is one aspect of authentic manhood.
We first encounter Abraham (Abram) in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, who does not speak until the fifteenth chapter. The first three chapters describing Abram’s life contain only the words of God and the silent obedience of Abram. This silence of Abram speaks profoundly of the attentiveness of Abram’s heart which waited upon the Lord’s direction. Abram had faith, entered the silence, and waited while listening to God.
Later in Chapter fifteen, Abram’s first prayer appears: he reminds God that though his name means “high father” and he is an old man, he has no son – no heir to fulfill the promise that God would make his descendants more numerous than the stars. “Thus one aspect of the drama of prayer appears from the beginning: the test of faith in the fidelity to God.” (CCC 2570) Abram was called to enter the test and trust in God.
Fear is the enemy of faith in God. Abram feared that he would not have a son of his own. Even more perplexing was that God promised Abram, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name and thou shalt be blessed.” (Gen 15:2-3) Notice that this prayerful dialogue began within the context of Abram’s silent meditation, upon his apparently hopeless situation. Abram had a vocational crisis – he wanted to be the father that God called him to be. So Abram took this crisis to silent prayer, presenting his fear to Lord and waited. As with Abram, we should always take our crises and our fears to the Lord in prayer, then wait and listen.
God spoke to Abram, “Fear not Abram, I am your shield, and thy reward shall be very great.” (Gen 15:1) God calls each of us to trust and overcome fear. Fear paralyzes us, keeps us from taking risks for the Kingdom, from stepping out and doing what God asks of us. Fear is the enemy to God’s plan being fulfilled in our own lives. These steps: 1)Presenting our fears to God, 2) entering silence, and 3) waiting and listening to God, will help us to overcome fear. Indeed, God will help you overcome your fears if you take your crisis to Him and patiently listen.
God took Abram outside and said, “Look toward heaven and number the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be.” And Abram believed the Lord and God reckoned it to him as righteousness. (See Gen 15:6) Later we discover that it was daytime when God asked Abram to count the stars; meaning that Abram believed in what was unseen; he had faith. The key to the success of our fatherhood is trust in God, in the gifts that we cannot see. This is the initial step of faith that sets the trajectory of your fatherhood.