My father’s name is Terah and I was born in the city of Ur, a very big city. Many travel from Ur on the river and cattle carts and donkey caravans as far away as Egypt. Date palms grow around the city and canals bring water for crops of barley, lentils, onions, and garlic. I was lucky enough to even learn to read and write a little from a local priest. I studied arithmetic, accounting, and Sumerian literature. I also learned about all of the gods of the city, tribes and people around Ur. All of these gods were confusing to me, but I learned from the priest about them and remembered his words. The priest spent quite a bit of time telling me about Sin, the moon god. Sin, also referred to as En Zu, is considered the ‘chief of the gods’ and the ‘creator of all things.’ His wife is Ningal and she bore him Shamash and Ishtar, gods of the Sun and Venus. My childhood imagination could see En Zu riding across the sky on a winged bull.
Early in my life Terah moved our entire family to Haran, a city that also had a temple to the God En Zu. Of course Sarah, my wife, came with us. Also, Terah’s grandson, Lot, came. There were many others also, family members, friends, and workers. It was a long and dusty trip. We took all of our sheep, goats, and donkeys. The donkeys helped us carry our belongings. Sometimes the women and children would ride on the donkeys. However, the trip was not much different than the life that we had living around Ur. We were always moving from place to place so that our sheep could graze and have water.
One of my earliest memories around Haran is about looking into the sky and seeing the moon. The air is cool and it is dark. Looking up into the sky, the stars fill the night. They are shining bright and seem so close that I could reach up and grab one. The feeling of awe and wonder pour over me, lift me up, and all of the stars speak to me. They ask me, “Who are you to ask?” But I have to ask anyway. From where do you come? Why are you there? What are you? I ask all of these questions of the stars, and they ask the same questions back to me. All of the questions make sense to me, but some say I should not ask. However, this night is not about reason. The stars are speaking and I am flying across the heavens. Just like En Zu riding the winged bull. Flying on the overwhelming feeling of awe, peculiarity, hope…….feelings that have no words……flying without wings. As I flew without wings, I was outside of myself. When I land, the stars keep asking, but give no answers. It is I that must give the answer, maybe an answer of faith. I am not flying anymore. However, I have to make my answer work here and in all the places beyond where I have been found.
My father, Terah, died while we lived in Haran. It was a great loss. The one to whom I looked for guidance was gone. I now had to seek guidance from a strength within myself that included all the memories of my father, my past, stories of the moon God. I felt like I was outside of myself, looking at my life. Without my father, what was I to do? In the midst of this loss, I knew, in spite of everything, I needed to act for the sake of my life and my family. I needed courage to act.
I decided that I needed to leave Haran with all of my family. At night, the moon spoke to me. I would think about my father and all that he gave to me, but realized that even he could not give to me the land and the skies, the stars and the moon, the sun and the clouds. I could hear a great voice, a father, a god, maybe even the God calling me on to a new adventure.
But to take that first step toward something that I did not know was hard. Could I ever be sure that my plan was right. Most of the time life for me is ordinary and this ordinary life seems to hold me in place. Why venture out? Why risk a new thing? Yet, I still seem to hear --- yet it was not really a hearing --- an extraordinary call to a new place. But finally I could feel that it was not this extraordinary hearing alone that called me to a journey. It was also the ordinary experiences of life that were calling also. The birth of a child, the smile of my wife, the wonder of the land and the skies were leading my in the process of life. I simply needed to trust, to have faith for the first and the next step. With my father gone, I now had to be father. In the steps of faith, I became the father of many who also live a life of trust.
Experiencing Life: A Personal, Ecumenical, Christian Perspective By John R King, Jr.