Genesis 11.27 This is the account of Terah’s family line.
Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. 30 Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.
31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.
32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.
It you are like me often I skip over the genealogies and stories about places thinking they aren’t that interesting or useful, and yet when we look at them more closely they can teach us more than we might think.
“…together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there”.
They were meant to go to Canaan, (that was their final destination) but Terah didn’t get there, instead he stayed at the place that became known as Harran, a place named after his Son who died, a place of pain, stuck in his grief, bound by bereavement from the place he was meant to go.
Indeed it sounds like he named the place after his Son Haran -Harran.
Sometimes although grief his horrible and painful, we become accustomed to it, comfortable in the place of pain, and not allowing ourselves to move on from the suffering, it takes faith to move from this dreadful –but familiar place- back to where we were meant to be,
Terah clearly started out as a person of faith when he began his journey full of hopefulness, vision and dreams but ended his journey disillusioned and gave up. He died there.
It made me wonder about my journey, and maybe yours too? Have we got stuck in a Harran? Perhaps pain, disappointment, disillusionment has caused us to stay in the wrong place –the place we were never supposed to be, a place that isn’t Canaan?
How many dream remain either undreamt or never turned into a reality, opportunities never ceased, moments never grasped.
-Indeed, it is reasonable to suppose that Terah’s great age he had ample opportunity to realize his dream, to fulfil his potential, and finish that which he began in faith.
C.S. Lewis reminds us that “you are never too old to dream a new dream, or reach for another goal”, and indeed when disappointments, pain and hurt floor us, we have a choice whether we stay on the ground or get up and continue on to where we were meant to be.
Another story in the Bible which offers a different and alternative ending to this story is the story of Simon Peter (John 21.15-19), one of Jesus’ closest disciples, who had been incredibly faithful in his journey of faith leaving his life and livelihood on the beach at Galilee when he went to follow Jesus, he had witnessed so much and clearly been changed by the experience (indeed he had a new name/a new identity he was no longer Simon but Peter). Yet, he had run off and left Jesus to be arrested, denied Jesus three times whilst he was on trial, and let him die alone despite Simon-Peter’s protests of loyalty and devotion. Simon-Peter must have felt like he was playing snakes and ladders and got near the top, and now had slid down a snake and was back at the starting point and beginning place, broken and hurting and returned to his old life that he had left on the shores of Galilee, the same shores where Jesus had called him to come and follow him three long years earlier. Yet it is here (the place of failure, disappointment and pain) that he meets the crucified but risen Christ, who re-instates him, forgives him and restores him (asking him the one and only question that really matters: ‘Do you love/like me?’ x3, one for each denial?) with a new (and greater) commission ‘to feed my sheep’/’tend my lambs’. Jesus’ final words to Peter in John’s Gospel are the same as his first words “Come and follow me” (John 21.22).
From that place of deflation he gains renewed purpose. What seemed like an end becomes a new beginning. Peter becomes a hero of the faith preaching the inaugural sermon at the birth of the Church at the day of Pentecost where three thousand people began their journey of faith following Jesus.
So, which are we Terah or Peter? Are we stuck somewhere in our Christian walk, have we hit a brick wall, are we back at the beginning, are we remaining in a place that we are not supposed to be as moving on from there is too hard and too painful? If so, let us make that brave step of faith and shake the dust of our feet from Haraan?