Finding Bethel in a Wheat Field

July 23, 2017

Last summer, my husband’s grandma died. She was a good ol’ Kansas lady: born, raised, lived, and died for the majority of her lifetime in the same tiny little town. The night before the funeral, we arrived at the farmhouse where we had planned to stay late into the evening—the stars silver and gleaming like I had never seen before. The next morning, I stumbled into the arms of more family than I could imagine. Great aunts, great second aunts, great cousins, second cousins, cousins—but not really cousins—uncles, and brothers, and nephews, and sisters. This was Kansas.

When I found a moment to breathe, I stepped out onto the porch. The farmhouse was set on hundreds of acres of wheat. As far as I could see, green grasses swayed at the touch of the wind. The air was cool as it coated my skin, and the sky swallowed the rest of the world around me. As I walked in the grass, I felt the rootedness of the family surrounding me. This land was deeded to “the future ancestors of the Ross family.” It had been tilled and loved and reaped and sowed for hundreds of years before me, and I was just a spectator—honoring the life of a woman I barely knew, experiencing her life through the things she did and saw and the land she walked upon.

The biblical witness is all about our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters—heirs to a mighty kingdom. Often, the images of this kingdom are invoked through God’s promises in the Old Testament—God’s promises, like the one he makes in Genesis 28 to Jacob. “I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”

The fullness of this passage was lost on me until I spent time with Ron (my husband) and his family from Kansas. The fullness of God’s promise to include me—an adopted daughter—into an eternal inheritance feels similar to my experience as an in-law to a bunch of aunts and uncles I’d never met before—awkward and messy and strange and distant. But, when I truly take the time to walk through the grass, to explore the possibility of my new identity, to remember the people who have traveled this journey before me, and to pray for the people who will come after, I find myself—mouth agape—wondering at the greatness of God’s work. I am rooted in God’s majesty and power as it shifts subtly across the great plains and grasses of the fields. Suddenly, I don’t feel so strange. Instead, I can feel the presence of God all around me—even within me.

And so it makes sense, after an incredible dream filled with promises too good to be true, that Jacob would awaken from his sleep, stretch his arms and legs, and quickly scurry to his feet. Looking out, I imagine that he might have seen the land around him in a different way—after all, we are told that he sees it in a different way. He renames the place where he stands “Bethel,” perhaps meaning “God’s safe place.”

Wherever you are today, I’d like to encourage you to take a look around you. Feel the Spirit of God moving about you. Notice God moving within you—you, son or daughter of the Almighty Creator. Amen.

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