Eugene Peterson has once again seen something that has really gripped my imagination. In his lecture series on the Beatitudes, at the beginning of the second lecture, he talks about the contrast between the spirituality of Abraham and the spiritualties of Egypt and Chaldea.
God called Abraham (Genesis 12) out of the lands of Chaldea and Egypt, where monuments to human glory were prominent in the form of ziggurats and pyramids. Perhaps with the tower of Babel fresh in Abraham’s imagination, he undertook no such building projects throughout his sojourn.
Instead, Abraham dug wells. Largely unseen monuments of emptiness and absence, making space for fullness and presence. They were obscure but vital sources of life. These pillars went the opposite direction to the ziggurats, down into the earthy soil. He dug down instead of built up. Eventually, Abraham’s wells were filled in by the Philistines, and Isaac his son had to recover them to gain access to their fresh waters (Genesis 26:15-18). Isaac’s task is similar to anyone who attempts to re-gain spiritual vitality that has been lost (significant to Peterson because he likens the 8 beatitudes of Jesus to wells that have been dug but need to be recovered).
We see in Abraham’s way, his spirituality, the way of the Kingdom of God in all times and places. It is the way of the last over the first, the weak over the strong, in human terms. In contrast to human attempts to construct selves and spiritualities (ethics), Kingdom subjects create space for God to fill by simply presenting themselves to God in all ways, means and seasons that are possible for humans to do (Christian spirituality). Reflecting on this prepares us for the Jesus way, made known through the Beatitudes.