It’s been two days.
These have been two of the longest days of my life.
For two days, I have not been able to look at my son.
On the first day, we went much faster than we should’ve simply because I would not stop moving. The servants spoke and Isaac spoke, but it was only when the ass started to rebel that I realized that we needed to stop. We’d travelled a day and a half and the only times we stopped were for water. I expected Isaac to come to my makeshift tent and bother me with all kinds of questions about the desert. You know, teenager questions.
“How is it that God chose for nothing to grow here except cactus?”
Strangely enough, after he asked where we were going, he said nothing more for the rest of the journey. When we found a place to rest, he immediately set about helping the servants to build a fire and set up shelters for the night. Not one question from him to me, not one word from him to anybody. He just went about his business. I wonder if it’s because he noticed that I haven’t looked at him since we left home.
One of the servants brought me a small rock I could lay my head on, and a mat to lay on the floor. As he left, I noticed Isaac sitting in front of his shelter. The other servant was chattering about elk and how he needed to groom the mules when we got back; his voice was that loud. Isaac just sat and nodded his head appropriately like he was listening, but I knew he was far away from this room. I saw it, but what could I do about it? I’m his father, not his closest friend. The boy has to learn to resolve whatever bothers him on his own, like any man would.
Who am I kidding? I know why he’s acting this way. I know why, but I cannot tell him what he needs to know. Not just yet.
I cannot tell him that I have to return him to his true owner.
Morning came, but it could not have made less of a difference to me. I turned in early, woke up to every hissing of the wind, and tried everything not to be anxious. I don’t know what my father knows, and it makes no sense to be worried about it.
Yet worried is all I’ve been since yesterday.
By the time the servants knew it, I had packed up pretty much everything. Again, father would not let us load anything onto the animals, preferring to do this alone and in solitude. He also continued not to look at me, but I guess I just have to live with it until he finally does. Anyway, as soon as he was done, we got to moving again. This was day three. I have no idea where Moriah is, but judging by how quickly father’s moving, it must be a good distance away.
I know that the sacrifice will happen today. I know this because I know that we will get to Moriah today. I know that because I know that Moriah is about a day and a half away by mule, so it must be twice as long on foot. I also know that there’s a certain point at which I’m going to have to start acting normal, otherwise Isaac might start asking questions I have no idea how to answer. At this point, I’m even questioning if that’s a good idea, because if I go back to normal, he will be even more confused. Nonetheless, I am still his father and I have to be the one to cure the anxiety.
We are almost at Moriah. I am not sure how best to explain this, but as I look at it, I can see a mark, a signal of some kind hovering over a very specific spot. I can see the path to this place, and I know what must be done.
I know that it is time.
So, we were moving, and everything was looking normal, and then we just stopped. I was burning to ask if we’d arrived, but father was looking ahead at a mountain range. For a minute, we all just stood there in the dust and heat, and no one said a word. And then the next thing I knew, my shoulder was loaded with the logs we brought, and my father was holding this knife that looked bigger than it really was in my eyes. He took a pot from the load on the ass, the first time I’d even seen the pot since I woke up three days ago. I didn’t even know he’d brought a pot. He filled it with coals, made a fire, and then came back to stand in front of us. He still hadn’t looked at me yet, but he did look at the servants, and his next words had a taste of pain like I’d never known.
“Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
We left them and eventually got to this point where it looked like the path was leading upward, but in a way so gentle that it wasn’t even noticeable. I knew it wasn’t going to be long before we got to the destination, and was still not sure what this sacrifice had to do with me or why father refused to look at me. That I was anxious about his refusal to look at me was confusing in itself, but if he was going to kill some poor animal because of something I did or didn’t do, I needed to know this. I needed to know so I wouldn’t repeat the error. But I knew I wasn’t going to get that answer, because I would have had that info on the very first day if he wanted me to. I did know, however, that sacrifices can’t work without an animal; blood was necessary. So, let me at least have that question answered.
“Yes, my son?”
“The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
“God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
The classic answer non-answer. Help me, Lord.
We got pretty high up, very close to the ridgeline of the mountain, and then we stopped. Father took the logs off my shoulder and asked me to sit on some rock. I tried to help but he had that stern “get out of my way” look on his face, so I did what he said. He still hadn’t looked at me yet, but I was much easier about that. After he said God will provide, I figured that God must have asked him not to bring an animal. This is probably one of those random instructions he gets from God that make no sense at the start. If that’s the case, then this has nothing to do with me at all. Maybe he brought me along just for me to witness how this works.
Maybe God will deal with me in the same manner, and father just wants me to see it firsthand so that I’m ready when it’s my turn. Maybe I’ve been anxious about him not looking at me for absolutely no reason. Then again, can you blame a child for not adulting? If your father sat with you in the same location, and never looked at you even when he was talking to you, you’d be waiting for the list of charges and offences and a court date with him. Mine didn’t look at me for three whole days! Anyway, I probably let anxiety get the best of me and make me paranoid. So, I’m relaxed about it for now. At some point, he’ll explain himself. Or at the end of this, I’ll see why he acted the way he did. He’s finished building the altar now, and he’s done arranging the wood on it. Now, all we need is-
Wait a minute. He’s looking at me! Finally! Yes!!
Hold on. He’s looking at me. There’s a rope in his hand I never saw before, and he’s looking at me. He’s walking towards me now. There’s a rope in his hand I never saw before, and he’s looking at me, and he looks like he’s holding back tears, and he’s now standing in front of me. Why is he just looking at me? All I wanted these last few days was for him to look at me, and now all I want is for him to get away from me. Did he just drag me up? Why is he tying my hands? What is… oh no!
Oh no! Oh my God, no!
God was supposed to provide the lamb! He said God would provide the lamb! He said God never accepts human sacrifice!
Father, what are you doing? I am your son! You cannot kill me! Father! Father!
Oh my God, he’s laying me on the altar now. He’s over a hundred years old! How is he so strong? Father! Father!!
(It probably helps to remember the first thing I told you in the beginning: no son defies their father in my time, not even at the point of death. I could not resist the man because the man is never to be resisted.)