Lent 2A: The Circle of Security

The Rev. Mary E. Davis

Lent 2 Year A
March 12, 2017
Genesis 12:1-4a
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.
When my children were little, I was always intrigued by the way they would confidently wander off to explore a playground, or the grocery store aisles, the airport, or wherever we were. And sure, today, you might call my fascination ‘negligence,’ but back then, I preferred to think of it as a small dose of ‘benign neglect.’ Because whenever they roamed like that, I couldn’t help but turn it into an experiment. I would intentionally and willfully stand my ground, standing in place, and then wait to see when, or if, they’d come back. I found it fascinating to see how far they’d actually go before they’d turn and look for me. And don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times when I’d have to chase and rescue them from something dangerous, but more often than not, it was the kids who would return. It was as if they’d reach some invisible fence line off in the distance, and then they would turn around to either look for me or run back to me for comfort.
There’s a name for this phenomenon. It’s called the “Circle of Security,” and it was researched and named by three therapists and professors out in Spokane, Washington, (Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper, and Bert Powell). The idea of this “Circle” comes from their research which looks at our need, as human beings, for attachment. I’m sure you’ve probably witnessed it, either with your own children or in someone else’s. We all have a need for attachment, but at the same time, in order for us to develop our sense of self, from a very early age, we also need freedom and confidence to explore the world. So on this circle, there’s a time for going out , to explore . . . a time for coming back in for comfort and protection, and then there’s the expectation that that return will be met by a loving caregiver, who will reassure us that we are valued and loved . . . and as the research calls it, a return to “hands on the circle.” Going out, coming back in, experiencing hands on the circle, again and again and again. This ebb and flow – this “Circle of Security” – doesn’t just apply to children either. It something that takes place throughout our lives, in varying degrees, and with various relationships.
Now, this morning’s reading from Genesis offers us a glimpse of that “Circle of Security,” a circle of exploration and trust between God and Abram (whose name God later changes to Abraham). Because Abram was the one. The one God chose to carry God’s blessing to all the world. The one God covenanted with, promising to make Abram’s offspring more numerous than even the stars. But before any of that could happen, God first called Abram to go out. To step out onto “the circle of security,” to leave his place of comfort and wealth in Haran, and go to a new land, the land of Canaan.
Now, going out . . . leaving what’s known and trusted . . . can be daunting. Just last weekend, here, as our Vestry members gathered for our annual retreat, we experimented with some time away from the comfort and security of this place. We braved the cold, and went out onto the streets of Chatham – which of course, are hardly treacherous - to walk with open hearts, open minds, and open eyes, to see what God was up to in this neighborhood. Now, believe me when I tell you that when I gave the instructions for this activity - this going out to intentionally roam the neighborhood - I immediately felt the stress level in the room rise! I could read their minds . . . ‘but will we have to talk to people out there? What will we say? Will we be judged? Will people think we’re some crazy Christian street evangelists?’ But we went out anyway, in small groups, to see what God was up to. And sure enough, we met people along the way, had conversations and connections of blessing, and discerned new places where we were being called to build ‘an altar in the world’ . . . to offer blessings of presence, support, and comfort. Then, we returned to our place of safety, here, with one another and to God’s hands on the circle.
But God’s desire that Abram leave Haran and start a new life in Canaan was not just so that Abram could stretch his sense of self and explore new places. It was much bigger than that. Much bolder than that. Because God’s bold desire was to bless all the families of the earth. And Abram was the one through whom that blessing would take place. His life took on new meaning and importance, new hope and responsibility, with the promise that God would always be there, with him and his offspring as they blessed the world, as “hands on the circle.”
Now, we too, are faithful descendants of Abraham. And we’re called by God to be a blessing in this world. Our Lenten calendar and Sunday outreach activities are all a part of that. But beyond this season of Lent, we are called to move forward on that circle of security. Rabbi Abraham Heschel called it ‘Praying with our legs.’ We are ‘Abraham’s legs’ in the world, called to find new ways to be blessings to all people, to engage in mission and ministry. God is anywhere people are, and God sends us to those places. And we go there with confidence, not because we have to somehow earn God’s love, but because time and time again, here in this place and in our worship, we have received God’s love./// Our response to that love is to share its blessing with the world outside our doors. So far, ‘praying with our legs’ has brought us to bless detained refugees, families with children on the autism spectrum, those in recovery from addiction, those who desire an education and families searching for a permanent home. Now, we need to ask, where else might our spiritual exploration take us?
Our lives as God’s faithful people is one of “call and response,” of journeying out on that circle of security, sharing God’s blessing, and then returning home on the circle for comfort, love, and protection, meeting God’s hands there. Both now and in the future, we are called to step away from the familiar and adapt to new landscapes of possibilities and blessing.