With my army discharge papers in hand, my wife and I drove from Texas to Illinois, happy to be our own rolling demilitarized zone. I would soon start graduate school, Holly would be looking for a job, and there would be about $40 left over after paying the first month's rent on an apartment, along with tuition and fees for my first semester.
Maybe you've been there, too, starting or restarting life without a safety net.
I remember the terrain along I-44 through Oklahoma and Missouri better than any specific thoughts that came to us as we drove eastward that August. But we were a mobile prayer laboratory.
Ideas came in a steady stream: as a Bible psalm or proverb, something Mary Baker Eddy wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," a line from a hymn, or just the simple comfort in a song like "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Holly once played Paul Simon's tune as a prelude in Fort Hood's chapel. God speaks in sounds and feelings, as well as in words.
Faith, I've since learned, "means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see." That's from chapter 11 of the Bible's book of Hebrews (J. B. Phillips), a stirring chapter on faith heroes and heroines. It would make powerful lyrics for a rock opera or an oratorio.
Steadily, that kind of faith grew in us - that we already had all we needed. We only had to trust the unseeable Infinite, and act on the inward voice. God's giving was real, generous, inclusive. Not just for a chosen few. He gives ideas, and ideas would disclose things - aptitudes, talents, opportunities - that we couldn't see yet.
In pretty quick succession we had a loaner mattress to sleep on, Holly got a job at the university, and because of her employment, I qualified for much lower resident tuition. She worked full time and took classes on the side. I took a full course load and worked a part-time job at a grocery warehouse.
We learned that lasting wealth is in intangibles made tangible. Those two years were an immeasurably substantial time, not just preparatory steps. We grew spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. We explored the arts and writing in unforeseen ways. Friendships began that continue to deepen many years later.
It was the beginning of our "Abraham Era." Abraham is one of those Bible heroes of faith, the patriarch who obeyed God's summons to go out to a place that he would eventually possess. He went in complete ignorance of his destination, "looking forward to that city with solid foundations of which God himself is both architect and builder" (Heb. 11:10, J. B. Phillips).
Abraham is loved as "father" by Jews, Christians, and Muslims - people of the "Abrahamic religions." He represents humanity awakening to understand spiritual existence as ultimate reality, and coming to know God as the one Creator.
The continuing suicide bombings and reprisal assassinations in the Middle East force the question: Have those three Abrahamic faiths accepted his fatherhood, but ignored his wisdom and example? Many of the things considered valuable - land, cash, investments, buildings, heritage, all assets of this life - are faint and finite copies of the Infinite's creation. Struggles over these kinds of stuff have only divided the universal family into factions.
For me, Abraham's wisdom voices some thoroughly modern, and pointed, messages: that "having it all" and poverty can be two sides of the same coin. That only the infinite Mind can save us from the deepest hunger - the famine of ideas. That we're all brothers and sisters in the Architect's holy city. That fences also fence in their builders. And that we can trust the abundance that can't be seen.
I am come
that they might have life,
and that they might have it