When I was training for the Richmond Marathon, I discovered podcasts. For as much as I love music, when we got up into the 15+ mile range, I needed something to better hold my attention and to distract me from the torture I was inflicting on my person. A friend suggested I try a podcast instead, and I was hooked.
I started listening to them on long bike rides and during my commute to DC. I listened to them on walks and while getting ready in the morning and while I would meal prep on Sundays.
But in the wake of my surgery, I haven't done much listening. I'll admit that I've spent too much time with Netflix and not enough time with my books or my podcasts (or anything else really substantive). Like my meditation practice, these things I've loved have been casualties of my cancer induced depression.
I've decided to take action against the Netflix monster this week, and have slowly started to get back to the things I once loved. So last night as I was juicing a produce section's worth of vegetables, I started in on the backlog of one of my favorites - Rob Bell's Robcast.
* * *
I was Jewish for a time. Its a long story that I won't get into here, but I continue to love the Jewish faith and credit my Rabbi with a large part of what my faith is today. So I decided to start back with the episode titled Rabbi Joel Brings 6 Words.
And in it I found my word for the road I am walking right now.
Translated to English, hineini means "Here I am".
As Rabbi Joel explains it, hineini is a statement about faith. Our forefathers used this word in moments of significant transition or fear - at turning points in their journeys and when they were standing on the precipice of change. They proclaimed "hineini" as a declaration that they are ready - ready to do what God is calling them to do. Even as everything seemed to be falling apart or going wrong.
* * *
While most of us likely don't know the Hebrew words that our bibles have been translated from, hineini is found in the Hebrew translation of two very well known stories. In Genesis 23, we hear it from Abraham, as he stands with his only son, Issac, prepared to perform the sacrifice that God has commanded.
When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Issac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Yes," Abraham replied. "Here I am!"
"Don't lay a hand on the boy!" the angel said. "Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son."
Genesis 23:9-12. Even as Abraham was about to do the unthinkable - sacrificing his only son - he loudly declared "hineini!" Here I am! I am ready! He was prepared to do whatever it was that God commanded. Even if it was painful. Even if he didn't understand why it had to happen. Hineini.
It comes again in Exodus, as Moses encounters the burning bush, and a turning point in his life:
One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire in the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn't burn up. "This is amazing," Moses said to himself. "Why isn't that bush burning up? I must go see it."
When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, "Moses! Moses!"
"Here I am!" Moses replied.
"Do not come any closer," the Lord warned, "Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.
Exodus 3:1-6. Even as Moses was about to hear the unthinkable - that God was commanding him to take on a hefty task, to lead His people out of Egypt - he loudly declared "hineini!" Here I am! I am ready! He was prepared to do whatever it was that God commanded. Even if he didn't feel capable. Even if he didn't understand why he was chosen. Hineini.
* * *
In the Robcast, Rob opines that the term hineini can serve as a reminder - a reminder not to sleep on this command from God, this opportunity, because this is your life.
As I think of my dear friends, I cannot come up with one who has not experienced a moment where they were presented with the opportunity to respond to God's calling with "here I am!". Each of us get these moments. But we don't necessarily choose that response.
Looking back on my own life, there are plenty of times where I stuck my head in the sand rather than responding. Where the task at hand seemed to great for little me. Or where I just felt like the energy required would be too much. Or I just felt like I knew better so, no, God, we were not going to do it that way. Thank you very much.
And I'll admit that in this space, I feel that way some days. Like Moses, I want to know why I am the one being called to take this task on. Like Abraham, it seems too painful some days to keep moving forward. But this was handed to me when I was in the space I was in for a reason. After I had gotten sober, after I had experienced chemotherapy before, after I got into recovery, and after I had spent two years taking a hard look at myself. While sometimes it looks like God pulled the rug out from under me, I think the reality was He knew this was the only possible moment for Him to call out "Kaity! Kaity!"
Because only know can I really respond, "Here I am!"