Reading through the story of Abraham these days.
You get the sense of this father of Israel as a John Wayne-esque frontier rebel. Leaving everything behind, going out into the unknown at the call of something deep inside him, living on a promise that no one else would understand, suffering the loss of a brother and then taking on his nephew's care and concern.
And he talks to God. And he lies to cover his own hide. All in a day's work.
What becomes interesting is Genesis 15.
God says don't worry.
God says you'll have your own son, of your genetic line.
God says you'll have descendants to the number of an astrologer's delight - just look up and count if you can.
"Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness." (15:6, NIV)
Then something strange happens. God promises that a physiological marvel would happen to a man and his barren wife, and Abram believes deeply enough that it takes shape as set-right-ness within him. A massive statement to be sure. Then God promises land, and Abram's righteousness starts to slip:
"Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?" (15:8)
How is that you believe for the miraculous, but doubt in the tangible? We believe God for the forgiveness of sin, but not for the reconciliation of relationships? We believe in the resurrection of the dead, but not for the disciplined relief of debt?
God responds and asks for a gift - a sacrifice of 5 animals. Abram brings them and cuts them in half - all but the birds.
Then he waits.
The wait is almost imperceptible in the text, but it becomes quite real if you are experienced in waiting on God. A specific question was asked, a specific gift was given, and now...what?
It takes so long that the buzzards start to gather:
"Then the birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away." (15:11)
Can't you see I'm doing something here?? Shoo!
It takes so long that Abram falls asleep. Through that sleep God ratifies an amazing covenant, you can read that for yourself, but I want to go back.
I want to go back to the priceless gift offered and the buzzards that threaten it.
We all have had times of prayer and seeking - looking for wisdom and discernment and help - and brought our best gifts. We've stood at the altar, presenting our very flesh and blood, waiting to hear. Speak Lord, we're all listening.
Then there is nothing. We protect the sacrifice, we become established and wait and wait, waving our hands wildly to protect this moment with God - this perfect moment of connection out of the spine-shattering fear that if someone breathes on what we are offering it will be forever lost.
The buzzards gather. But what if they are necessary?
We learn from the moments of waiting - there is something to do in the meantime, to protect and scatter the scavengers who would take what isn't theirs. Those who wounds with words, who push us down in order to raise themselves a bit, those whose insecurity becomes a searing sharp blade that enters our deepest places with precision and vision. The abusers. The addiction-drivers. The life removers. Those Jesus loves and died for, but with which we struggle simply to stomach being in the same room. The scavengers of heart, of soul, of health and well being, of identity and belief in the fact that we are ones as James Bryan Smith says,
"In whom Christ dwells and delights. In Him we are significant, safe and strong. With Him we can do everything, apart from Him we can do nothing."
We have this belief in hand, it moves us into a place of set-right-ness and we cling to it and then the buzzards gather. We get exhausted from the waiting on God and the waving of hands that we're ready to let the fowl murder of scavengers have the whole of our offering.
Then covenant. Then reminder of our chosenness, our graceful selection as part of the world of chosenness in which God engages in active delight over our very existence. Covenants of promise, that in the midst of buzzards you will live "life and life to the full." (John 10:10)
We need the buzzards. We hate the buzzards. They threaten what we bring.
In the end, though, they teach us about waiting. They shape the soul and the fruit of the soul, that patience that reminds us we are citizens of a Kingdom of power, that buzzards cannot remove. So we will wait here. We will wave our arms over our great sacrifice, and wait for God to spread His hands over the land of our lives:
Move aside buzzards. All this belongs to my child.