We have been back in America for a whole year now. And it just feels as if a piece of me is slipping away, further into a memory of who I used to be. It doesn’t feel like a milestone to be cheered but a loss of the life I longed for to be mourned in some way. This year back “home” has felt like a desert season. It seems as though we are wandering, appearing to be a little lost. Before we came back, I felt sure that the vision of Juniper Table was our “Promised Land”. I was unsure of the path to get there, but knew where we were heading.
I have always liked the book of Joshua because it is about Israel entering into the Promised Land. Finally achieving their goal after 40 years of WANDERING. As I am studying Exodus, I am loving this book more and more. There is a richness in the messy discomfort and failings of the wilderness that I am finally embracing. Real talk is I have always blamed the Israelites for spending so long wandering and not just cutting to the chase and getting their tails to the Promised Land. I think now I realized the wilderness wasn’t all because they were “bad” and disobedient, but it was a process of PREPERATION for the Promise. With that perspective and because of the desert I find myself in, I see myself right there among the Israelites- in the wilderness.
“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, "If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”- Exodus 13:17
In Exodus, the reason that God lead the Israelites on the back roads was because He knew if they faced their enemies, the difficulties of war, that they would sooner return to slavery than fight for freedom. WHOA. "So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness..."- Exodus 13:18
Sometimes the kindness of God is found in the wandering of the wilderness. In that lost and confusing searching, he fortifies us to do hard things. Battles would come, but God knew he had to prepare them first. I am shocked every time I read through Exodus how often the Israelites seem to lose their actual minds and forget the miraculous things God just did for them. “OH NO! WHAT ARE WE DOING, LETS GO BACK TO BEING SLAVES!” Seriously, God gave them water and it was as though they IMMEDIATELY forgot that when they get to their next camp and start running around saying “WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DRINK?” Yo, the Creator of the World literally parted an entire OCEAN for you to walk though, was a pillar of FIRE guiding you at night and clouds by day…. I *think* he can manage food and water…chill.
But, y’all. How often have I done that? I find myself still doing that.
God has proven faithful to our little family, yet I still freak out when I look at our budget sometimes, thinking “what are we going to do?!”. I have been stressed by our finances, yet a few months ago I opened up my journal and found $200 wedged between the pages, what I felt like was a gift from God to buy some new clothes that we cant otherwise afford right now. All of the wandering, the crushing, the FORTIFYING of our souls is to prepare us to walk into what God has for us. Not just an easy ride of life, but to prepare us to do more hard things.
The Israelites would still have to face battle to get into the Promised Land, but God needed to prepare them for it first. The Promise God has for us requires FIGHT. When we step out to follow God, we will face things that will make us want to turn around. Will we chose to do the hard things that prepare us? The “old life” will seem more comfortable, safer, more known. But hard things are done by daily choices to keep going. Last night I laid in bed and cried, frustrated with the way life if going. In the middle of the night as I lay awake I had to pray to calm my anxiety and go back to sleep. I asked God to replace my dread with hope. I fought. It hurt, I hurt. But today Patrick hugged me tight and loved me just the way I needed- he told me to stay home from church and write.
And so we continue to walk in the roundabout way, dead set on doing hard things. They seem a conundrum in our world of quick results. The longer I walk with God and study His word, the more I see that us humans try to rearrange God like a Picasso painting to fit into our own narrative. We try to force God to be who we want Him to be instead of accepting Him for who HE is and allowing Him to mold us into HIS image. EVEN THE PARTS WE DONT LIKE OR WANT TO LIKE. We want God on our terms. It's like there is a spirituality buffet and we want to pick up the things that seem nice and leave what we find unappealing sitting under heat lamps. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS.
God is not American, God is certainly not Republican, God doesn't find himself at all in our political debates. God doesn’t want us to tithe just so He can give us a big house (He wants us to give because it makes us more like Him), He doesn’t say one thing and mean another. We can’t pick and choose the parts of the Bible we choose to believe. We cant decide to follow God when its convenient but not when we have life “under control”. God is not impressed with our sacrifices for Him, but is fully interested in our OBEDIENCE to Him.
And sometimes obedience is hard.
The thing that has been hardest about re-entering American Christianity for me is feeling like somewhere we have lost the ability to do hard things for God. I believe the message I will be resounding until my dying day is HARD THINGS ARE WORTH DOING.
When we lose this, and take the path of least resistance it is like we are all guzzling big glasses of warm skim milk. Skim milk may be your thing, and if it is- I apologize… not for dogging it. But for the fact that you drink it. Because I think you’ve been duped. Somewhere in American culture we decided FAT is bad. Because “fat" must make us “fat" and being fat is bad. Here is what I believe about fat and milk and all the things: I believe in things the way God made them. I don’t really drink milk ever, but if I buy it (Patrick likes it with a chocolate chip cookie) you bet your bottom’s dollar it is full fat, whole milk. BECAUSE THAT IS REAL MILK. Skim milk is just not. It is altered to make us feel better about ourselves kind of milk. We want to have milk on our own terms, and you can have that if you want it but you will be missing out on the way it was meant to be. So I believe in whole milk and the difficult process of following God.
Drinking whole milk is better for us. Doing hard things are better for us.
It is difficult to FORGIVE, but Jesus did it.
It is hard to choose to give when you don’t have what feels like enough for your family, but it is beautiful.
Sometimes where God leads can feel like a step backwards, and that slashes our pride, but God is building our humility.
It is hard to love someone who has hurt you. Hard to chose to do something you dont WANT to do even if you feel like it is the RIGHT thing to do (helllooooooooo).
I will be over here, decidedly pursuing a life that is willing to do hard things, because I want a life that pursues the things of God. It is not easy. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33
Jesus gave us a heads up. He never pretended as though it would be a cake walk. Somehow we have disillusioned ourselves in that way. He warned us of the trouble and reminded us, even still, He has got the whole world in His Hands.