Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you…’ So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.” (Genesis 12:1,4-5).
There is no record of Abram equivocating, hesitating, or agonizing over this command to leave his homeland and to set off for parts unknown. Instead, we see God speaking and Abram moving, putting God’s word into action immediately. This week, I have been thinking a good deal about promptings and action. We live in a world of promptings from many places: work, school, news reports, magazines, the internet and the dryer buzzer. The dryer buzzer?
When I started working full time a couple of years ago, it was plain that some of our routines needed to change. The boys and their father took on extra responsibilities, and they do a pretty good job. The boys are pretty good about taking care of their chores and not whining when I remind them, but they still don’t do things as I would. I’m not talking about being slap-dash here or refusing to do the work: instead, the biggest issue is that they tend to do only what I assign and remind them to do. They have not yet matured to the point of looking at a room, seeing it needs tidying and then feeling a prompting to tidy. Likewise, when it’s laundry day all of us will hear the dryer buzzing that the load of laundry is finished…but I am the only one to whom that buzzing indicates something should be done.
I was fussing about this a little to myself when I realized this is a reminder of how my Christian walk is being refined, day-by-day. How often, I wonder, does my Father think, “Why isn’t she doing what she knows she ought to do? Why, when the Holy Spirit is prompting her to do the right thing, when she knows the right thing to do, why doesn’t she do it?” Why don’t I always interpret that buzzing dryer as an impetus to do what ought to be done?
When I ponder how I came to understand that household promptings meant I should act on a situation, I realize there are several components. First, an awareness of how things ought to be done, second, an awareness that I had a responsibility to do things, and third, practicing the same routines over and over to strengthen those habits and increase my awareness of the promptings that require immediate attention.
This is how our Christian journey is, too. First, we have to know there is a path that ought to be followed. That has to be joined with the understanding that because there is a way that things should be done, we have a responsibility to do them. And then we have to practice until we can do it automatically, without hesitation. To put it into social terms, most of us probably don’t have to think, “Oh, I should probably say, ‘Thank you,’ for this gift that I was just given. Should I say it or not? Oh, I guess I could.” We automatically say, “Thank you.” But this small action is built upon practice that was forced on us and an awareness built into us by our parents or some concerned authority. We learned that “thank you” is what you say when someone does something for you. Now, we don’t have to think about it—we just do it.
James 1:22-25 reminds us, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
If we know what should be done, and we know we ought to do it, then what remains is to follow the laws of God as often as we hear that prompting. Over time, if we pay attention and focus on doing these things, they will become as automatic as thank you, as insistent as a dryer buzzing to call our attention to carrying out a duty. We will begin to do things God’s way without constant reminding as part of the process of conversion. Let’s listen for those promptings and set our focus on learning what we ought to be doing!