Posted by: pmarkrobb | October 3, 2012

both of them together

I experienced the gift of having my nine year-old son join me in my sacred space one morning early this week.  I was reading ahead, preparing to write the mid-week post, and God was about ready to remind me of something.  Something He has shown me time and time again over the past couple of years in fathering, and teaching, and writing, and spending time with Him.  It’s a simple truth that I have come to believe in strongly.  It’s the truth that He loves the questions and the time in relationship considering them, more than He loves the answer.  It’s the truth that He loves the conversation I had with my nine year-old and the subsequent conversations that we both had with Him, more than what I was preparing to write for you.

See, I could (with His help) write something interesting, compelling, challenging, inspiring, and/or thought-provoking on the life of Abraham.  Abraham as a man and in his exercise of faith, is all of those things I just mentioned.  He is a “hall of fame” sort of character as it relates to faith and in the grand narrative of us and God.  He is a man who, from the text, appears to have complete and unquestioning faith in God, in walking his only son right to the point of a knife.  This seems good and right to share and would no doubt compel, challenge or inspire you in your walk with God.  But it also became really small in the context of an innocent but genuine question from my son.

“What are you reading, Dad?” was the question my son asked as he wiped sleep from his eyes and crawled up on the couch next to me.  “Oh, the story of Abraham and his son Isaac.  Do you remember it from Sunday school?”, I answered.  “Yeah, I think so.  Can I read with you?”  He scampered off to get his Bible and soon rejoined me and asked for the book and chapter where I was reading.  “Genesis 22, bud … the first 19 verses.”  He read most of the story out loud to me and asked me to finish the last couple of verses.  When I was finished we sat quietly for a minute or so.

“What are you thinking?” I asked.  He appeared to be staring out just over the edge of his Bible.
“Why did he say ‘the boy’?”
“Huh?” I asked.  “Where do you see that?”
“Verse 5.  Abraham calls him ‘the boy’.  He says ‘I and THE BOY’. (CAPS and bold added to properly denote the strong emphasis in my son’s voice when he said it)  Isn’t that his son?  Isn’t that his ONLY son?  Wouldn’t he be precious to him?  Why wouldn’t he use his name?  Why wouldn’t he say ‘my son’?  Why would he call him ‘THE BOY’?  That doesn’t make sense.”

I immediately “felt” his question.  He was putting himself in the story.  This was a boy and his dad reading a story about a boy and his dad.  This was Connor asking about Isaac.  In my mind’s eye, this was Connor asking Mark why Abraham didn’t say ‘Isaac’.  This was Connor asking Mark if he is precious.

I responded only with “That’s a great question, bud …  Hmmm …  What a great question.”  Now, if you knew my son, you would be skeptical that the conversation actually ended that way.  He rarely ever stops asking until he gets an answer.  And even then, the answer often spawns a new line of questioning.  But I honestly think Connor is getting more used to me leaving things at a question.  My Sunday school teaching partner has inspired that in me.  “Don’t be too quick to give an answer”, he would say.  “Encourage them to keep asking the question.”  This is a practice that has become very central to who I am as a person, as a parent, as a teacher and as a writer.

In my developing thoughts in the quiet few moments before my son joined me on the couch, I had begun to form the outline and key point of the mid-week post.

  • Abraham’s unquestioning faith
    • His verse 3 response to God’s verse 2 test
    • His verse 8 response to Isaac’s verse 7 question

In the quiet few moments after my son jumped down from the couch and walked off to get breakfast, God sharpened my focus by re-orienting my eyes to the periphery of verses 7 and 8.  In the ESV translation I was reading from, the single sentence that precedes verse 7 and that ends verse 8, contain the exact same words … So they went both of them together.  I believe in my life that morning, bigger and more important than Abraham’s unquestioning faith, was my son’s question and the time we spent together considering it.  In yours and my life today, I believe that bigger than the answers we desire are the questions we are asking and the time we are spending with God considering them.  I believe that more than anything we might do or say for God, He desires for the story to read …

So they went both of them together…

It is bigger than Abraham’s “hall of fame”, unquestioning faith.  It is bigger than what God wants from us.  It is what God wants with us.


  1. Oh….soo good!! Thanks Connor. Thanks for reminding us and pulling us to the place that we have as His children. In a world that wants to focus on answers, endings and results (information), we are invited to LIFE – observations, questions, beginnings and engagement (transformation)! Father, might we continue, both of us, together. 🙂

    Thanks for a father, Mark, who remembers and does not resist the child in us all. “The kingdom belongs to such as these.”

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