“Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negev as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai…” (Genesis 13:2-3).
I can only imagine what took place there—between Bethel and Ai—along one of the major trade routes through Canaan. This is not Abram’s first stop in this particular area, and there must be something pulling him back and back again. One of the basic necessities of human life, of course: Trade. Despite Abram’s nomadic lifestyle, he and his family still had to trade; and according to Genesis 13:2, Abram had plenty of wealth with which to do so. I can just picture the cultures mixing as people come together from far and wide, rural and urban; and not far from the banks of the Mediterranean Sea and supremely situated near the Jordan River Valley. The Bible describes this land to be as fertile and as beautiful as “the garden of Eden” (Genesis 13:10). I can see colors of clothing, fruits and vegetables…and smell the spices…and the animals…and hear the busy markets bustling and teeming with people and livestock. This main trade route is located not far from the city of Sodom — a main stop and a “hot spot”, I’m sure, to hit along your route to or from the market.
Picturing this lively market takes me back to another market that I visited every Sunday after church for one year. Women would travel from the most remote villages, walk uphill for miles, shoes worn down or barefoot, they would trudge up and down Rwandan windy roads just as the sun peeked over the rolling hills. They would assume positions at the nearest local market and set up their makeshift wooden booth or bench for yet another day of sales. I would pack my market bag inside my purse, ready to head out the church doors when the service ended and walk around the corner and across the dusty dirt roads to the Musanze market. There I’d try not to get overwhelmed and I’d quickly scan the crowd for my people. The same people I’d buy my weekly pineapple, green beans, papaya, avocados, onions, cauliflower, baby bananas, tree tomatoes, and passion fruit from each and every week. Oh, the array of Rwandan women adorned in their East African fabrics of bold shapes and colors, each clamoring for me to come and buy from them. The freshness, the aliveness, the sights, smells, and sounds…I imagine it wasn’t entirely different from Abram’s experience at Bethel.
I’m not trying to compare myself to Abram; but to a much smaller degree, I’ve also had my fair share of different homes and beds and countries and cultures, each leaving a mark on me. But, mostly contributing to this ever growing thought in my head and ache in my heart…so, where is my home?
Half my lifetime ago, by the time I was 12-years-old, I’d lived in 7 different homes. And in the last 6 years I’ve lived in 3 different countries, 7 different cities, and I’ve moved my stuff around to a new living arrangement a total of about 15 times. So yes, in a way I relate to Abram’s nomadic lifestyle. However, I can also relate to Lot’s pull towards the “big city” with all its “grass is greener” advertising. I feel as if most of my life is lived in this tension of being a privileged and educated white American female who never had to question whether or not she was going to college, as it was just simply assumed. But now I know that that’s not the case for everyone…or for most people around the world. So the present challenge is this: how to hold in one hand the American culture I’m currently in and have grown up in, with its lures of materialism and promises of comfort and no real need of God…and then in the other hand, my failing attempts to balance the realities of what I’ve seen around the world…those who have no home and live in the makeshift townships of South Africa, or those who work hard every day in school because they know that education and a college degree is their only chance and hope to escape poverty biting at their heels.
Where do I find myself in the midst of all of this? How I wish I could answer that! Caught between cultures. Unsettled always. Knowing more than I wish I knew. But I feel that some of these deeper questions are the hidden questions posed to Lot when he chose where and how he would build his home. What ideals would shape his decision of where to lead his family? “Lot looked up and saw…” (Genesis 13:10); what will have enough weight in Lot’s life to catch his eye as he looks up? What holds enough weight in my life to influence my decisions, big and small? Will Lot position himself geographically closer to the sin and wickedness that characterizes Sodom? What drives Lot deep, deep down? To what will he attach himself? And then on the other hand, Who and What drives Abram? What is most important to Abram that is the leading and guiding factor in his life?
The idol of comfort is so real in my mind and heart. Most of the time it seems that life would be much easier to just hole away in a nice little quiet home and not bother with the problems of the world, but just keep to myself and attach myself to comfort and ease. It’s scary how tempting that is. But I feel like I face these questions every day…what’s driving me? What’s catching my eye each time I look up? What’s holding the most weight in my decision making? Where will I build my home and settle? Mostly, I’m just tired of moving at the end of every 9-month period in my life. I want a home.