Life in ABA Form
Some time ago the person in charge of our high school Sunday school class purchased copies of a devotional book to use as the basis for her lessons. The book is called OMG. One day, passing through our church library, I spotted a stack of these books. I’m always on the lookout for good devotional material for myself, and I’m still a teenager in many ways, so I took one. The devotionals are short, interesting, and thought-provoking. I can see how they would appeal to high school students. For the past couple of months I’ve read one each day.
A few days ago I came across one by Lillian Daniel entitled “Not Another Moving Day.” As the daughter of a journalist, she moved with her family all around the world, especially in Asia. “I didn’t get to live in my own country (U.S.A.) until I was in ninth grade.”
I can sympathize. My parents were ministers in a denomination whose leaders moved its pastors wherever they decided they would do the most good. I never thought much about it because that was the way we lived. I knew no other way. Many of my friends within the denomination were subject to the same lifestyle.
We were never moved out of the country, and I spent all of my scholastic life in New York State. Still, I was always aware that I might end a school year in one place and begin the next in someplace completely different. The only school I spent four years in was high school.
Daniel’s choice of Scripture passages (Genesis 12:1-9) resonates with me. Abraham’s experience was hers—and mine. In my own ministerial career I’ve developed a sermon based on this passage. I call it, “But God Had Other Plans.” In it I detail how my life was moving in one direction, and I thought I was all set, only to have God turn me in quite a different direction. I’ve preached that sermon several times, every time I left one church and started in a new one. Actually, I’ve preached it twice in each move: once in the church I was leaving, and again in the church I was moving to. At this point in my life, I hope I only preach it once more.
Daniel and I both understand Abraham’s situation, and even more, that of his family. We both know what it’s like to have someone say, “Start packing, we’re moving.” Disappointment at leaving good friends and familiar territory? Yes.” Excitement about the new place? Yes. Fear and trepidation about the new place? Definitely yes!
Musicians label the different sections of a piece of music with capital letters. The first section is A, the second section B, and so on. If a section is repeated, we call it by the same letter we did before. We refer to this system as the form of the piece. One frequently used musical form is ABA. Its roundedness offers a sense of completion.
Daniel’s life might be described as being in AB form. Once she reached maturity and had her own family, she stayed pretty much in one place. Actually, she talks about one additional move in her adult life, so perhaps a better form would be ABC—an unusual form in music, but not uncommon in life.
My life has followed a different form. It began, of course, with A (moving frequently from place to place), followed by B, when I lived in the same city for thirty years, most of them in the same house.
Shortly after I met my present wife we moved from that city. For the next several years we returned to A, as we moved frequently. We used to joke that if a truck pulled into our driveway, all our furniture walked out the door and onto the truck.
Now we seem to have entered another B section. For the past twenty-two years we have lived in the same area, most of them in the same house. We expect the form of our lives to stop here (ABAB)—another unusual musical form, but one with which we are quite content in our lives.
One thing we know: just as God continually led Abraham and his family, and just as the church provided a stabilizing force for Daniel as she moved from place to place, so God has gone with me—now us—to each new place. If God calls us to move, we will go, knowing that God will go with us, bless us, and use us no matter where God might place us.