Long Distance Relationships

Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.”

Reading this passage, I find several complicated elements: the idea of possession of the land; Abraham’s preference for his son to marry someone from among his own people rather than from another nation; and the claim that God would displace nations and peoples for a chosen few to be given their inheritance. 

But, what resonates with me most as a new father is the fear that Abraham so obviously has, of his son Isaac moving far away. For many parents, the obvious analogy is that moment when your child graduates from high school, and goes off to college or some other endeavor that takes them far away from home. For me, when such a time is far-off and barely imaginable), the fearsome part is not the empty nesting, or the worry related to the child being at school far away; rather, it is the idea that the child won’t come back.

What if my son goes away to college, graduates, and gets a job near wherever he was in college, and decides to settle down there? Will that mean that, for the entirety of our adult-to-adult relationship, he will live far away? Once he graduates from high school, will I only ever see him again at holidays and on special family vacations?

The blessing and the curse of living in a mobile 21st-century society is that it is both easier to see loved ones who live far away, and more likely that your loved ones will live far away. In Abraham’s society, it is both far rarer that someone would live far away from their family, and it would also carry much heavier consequences for someone to do so. 

For Abraham, had Isaac himself gone to seek a wife, and decided to stay there rather than return to his father, that would have been a death sentence to their relationship. It is unlikely that they would have seen each other again. And yet, that is essentially what Abraham is asking of Isaac’s future wife, who at this point is unknown: that she leave everyone and everything she knows, and make a journey that will very likely never be reversed. 

Perhaps this is the saddest thing about Abraham’s story: the fact that he is asking another parent to do what he himself was terrified of doing, to say goodbye to his child forever. 

Peter Levenstrong is Associate Rector at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Having grown up non-religious, he enjoys bringing “a fresh pair of eyes” to explore the Christian tradition, and is particularly interested in the intersection of faith and justice. You can find more of his sermons at https://peterlevenstrong.wordpress.com/

[adrotate group="3"]
[adrotate group="4"]
[adrotate group="7"]

All content ©2022 by the Episcopal Journal & Cafe

The Episcopal Journal is a 501 (c) 3 corporation. Contributions are tax deductible.

Website design and management  by J T Quanbeck.