One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.—Genesis 11:31-32, NLT
The figure of Terah remains obscure to most readers of the Bible, in spite of his status as the progenitor of the famous Father Abraham. Terah was the one who began the migration from Ur to the Promised Land of Canaan. Although clear in his purpose—to go to Canaan—his motive remains unknown, lost in history.
Could God have called Terah first to leave his country to go to the land that flowed with milk and honey? Maybe Terah himself conceived the idea of leaving his home to go to faraway lands. In whatever case, his project stalled when he stayed in Haran.
Why did he stop halfway? Did he fall victim to the fear of Canaanite xenophobia? Did he tire of the nomadic life? Perhaps his wife complained that the land of Canaan would strand her too far from her family. Did he fall into the trap of mediocrity, seeing Haran as “good enough?” Maybe his health failed.
Whatever his motive for settling, Terah never reached his goal. But his son Abram resurrected the goal of his father through God’s guidance. Terah only got halfway to Canaan, but his son crossed all the way to other side y became the greatest patriarch of the Jewish people.
Sometimes the migrant’s dream takes a pair of generations to fulfill. No shame falls on those who arrive halfway to the fulfillment of their dream so their children can fully realize it later. Terah never became the celebrated patriarch. But thousands of years later, his memory remains.
Not all immigrants will see the fulfillment of their aspirations. But if their children realize the dream, in what sense have the parents failed? Didn’t they set out on the journey for the good of their children in the first place? Even if the road to fulfillment takes a couple of generations to walk, nothing has gone wrong. Everything has come out just fine.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.