Sacred Space

Abraham created sacred space

Abraham was a man who listened and responded to God. When God told him to go to a land God would show him, Abraham responded and went, not knowing where he was going. At God’s direction, Abraham left his father’s household, his community and his homeland.

When Abraham first entered what we now call the promised land, he built an altar to God between Bethel and Ai. He, Sarai and Lot continued traveling down south into the Negev desert. Because of drought, they went further south into Egypt. Then, they came back up through the Negev desert to the promised land again:

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.

Genesis 13:3-4

Abraham and Lot accumulated many animals and possessions in their travels, and they both had many herdsmen to tend the animals. When their herdsmen began quarreling with each other, Abraham took action to address the situation.

He told Lot it wasn’t good that their herdsmen were quarreling, and he offered Lot his choice of land. Abraham said, “If you go left, I will go right. If you go right, I will go left.” Lot chose the plains of the Jordan, so Abraham went the other direction:

So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.

Genesis 13:18 

From this portion of the story of Abraham, I am impressed today by a couple of things. First, Abraham is ever the hospitable man. He offered Lot his choice of direction first.

I believe Abraham did this because he trusted God, and he was content that God would take care of him. Thus, he was able to be hospitable and kind. He didn’t need to compete or vie with his nephew. He did the right thing and let God do the rest.

The first point is most important: Abraham trusted God. Abraham listened and was responsive to God’s voice. He went when God said to go.

When he got to the promised land, he did not seek to possess it by his own will. He held it loosely. He came and he went, and he returned again trusting that God would guide him and settle him where God desired him to be.

When he first entered the promised land, he built an altar to God. The first thing he did was to create sacred space and to seek God. Abraham created sacred space, but he did not seek to possess it.

When drought came, Abraham was quick to move, wandering through the Negev desert to Egypt and back again. When he came back, he returned to the sacred space he had previously created.

Even then, he did not seek to possess the land, as if it were his. He was content to allow Lot his choice. After Lot chose his direction, Abraham struck out to a new location. Where he settled he created an altar to God, and he made sacred space at the new location.

As I read and think through this short story, I realize that I failed to make sacred space in my life in all the places I have moved. I did strike out once for a land God would show me when I graduated from college and took a summer job in New Hampshire. I left, not knowing where I was going, with a clear feeling as if I would never come back.

I spent six years there. I settled into a strong church community. I got married, and I had two children there. I created sacred space there. I could have spent my entire life in NH, and I fully believed I might when I moved out there.

Then, I picked up and I left. I came back to the area in which I grew up following a direction I believe God had given me. When I moved back, I fully believed it was temporary. I didn’t intend to stay, but I did, and there I have remained.

I was reminded, when I came back, of the darkness I had experienced in the area I grew up before I began searching for God and chose to follow. I did not create sacred space for me and God when I moved back.

As I read through the story and meditate on it, I realize that my failure to create sacred space was an error. I do not know what difficulties, heartaches, missed opportunities, and other negatives I have experienced because I failed to create sacred space when I moved back.

I wandered long in a desert of spiritual decline after I moved back to the area where I now live that I believe I may have avoided if I had simply created sacred space for God in my life. I have created that sacred space now, but only after a long, wilderness experience.

As I read the story of Abraham, I see that Abraham created sacred space where he ended up, though he might have chosen a different direction. He gave the choice to Lot, and ended up where he was by default. He might have failed to create a sacred space because it wasn’t the area of his choosing, it wasn’t the area he thought he would end up, or he continued to think and look for something else.

Where Abraham ended up became known as the Promised Land. Is that because of God’s Providence? Did Abraham perceive it that way? What if Lot had gone the other way? Would the plains of the Jordan have been considered the promised land then?

We don’t know. Just as we don’t know in our own lives. All we can do is listen, respond, and follow the voice and direction of God as we sense it in our lives.

It seems to me, though, that wherever we go, we need to create sacred space – a space, location, time, room – to meet with God. This is the critical thing.

We need create that space in our lives as a first priority. We need to meet God where we are, though we might chose to be somewhere else, though we might think our current location is temporary, though we might dream of being elsewhere.

The truth is that our very lives are temporary. We live in the world in our present lives as aliens and strangers.

Wherever we are is the place to create sacred space for Go to offer Him our sacrifice of thanks and praise. Wherever we are God is, and there is no place we can go that God is not present.

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