(Lent 2A Genesis 12:1-4a)
When I was a little girl growing up in Virginia, I used to watch my daddy shave every morning. He would sing to me, and although he did not have a tuneful voice, he sang with gusto. His friends called him Billy, and not surprisingly, "Billy Boy" was part of his repertoire. I'm sure he didn't meant to sing me a song that would create an image of the feminine that was decidedly non-adventurous. "She's a young thing and cannot leave her mother"–that line idolizes helplessness (as well as pie-baking). My father was in an odd place, a product of his time in some ways, born in 1920 into a world in which unmarried ladies never left home. I knew very well, at 21, that if I did not leave then, I might never leave.
I went to New York City for a year, and I lived in a "women's residence" run by the Ladies Christian Union, though I must say the employees seemed neither to be ladies nor particularly Christian. From there I went home to prepare for a wedding, and it was as if I had never left. My big adventure had brought me into a more dependent relationship than I had ever imagined.
Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. (Genesis 12:1-4a, NRSV)
I followed when my husband took a job in a land far from my home. I remember the response of friends and extended family was all amazement and shock! How could I go so far away? But my husband did not want to stay among my people, to be always identified with my well-known father, and so we went.
I went determined to make the best of it. After all, I was married to him.
But I learned that sometimes we have to leave the familiar places to find out who God wants us to be. For me that did not involve another geographic relocation (although there were many moves ahead in our new hometown), but rather a spiritual relocation. It came to seem that my choices were to go back, both literally and figuratively, to my father's protection, or to curl up and die, or…or to trust God and strike out for the land God would show me, a landscape of the heart and soul in which I was not a young thing who could not leave her mother, but a new creation, a person of strength and will, a person whose talents could be put to use on God's behalf, if I could only leave behind the interior world in which I was only a passive would-be muse to the Charming, and Not-So-Charming, Billys.