I’m pretty sure all of my blog posts start out the same way. Nothing earth shattering. I’m simply sitting with my kids doing something normal, and suddenly the thoughts in my head turn to something that longs to pour out of me onto paper. It’s a fairly bizarre feeling and one that keeps me awake if I don’t let it out. So I do. This post is no different. It began with the simple reading of a Bible story on a normal morning with my kids. They had chosen to read about Moses and the Red Sea. You know that one? Of course! Egyptians, plagues, finally the Israelites get to leave, slight problem in the form of an entire sea in their way, God parts the water and they walk through, Egyptians drown. Yay! Right? But I’m reading and looking at this childish illustration of the walls of water on either side of the Israelites and my heart was struck.
In order to get where God wants us, we often have to walk through towering walls of water.
I tried to imagine the rushing sound of that enormous body of water as it completely went against its natural course and split in two. As the people watched dry land appear where before there were only waves. I’m sure it was majestic and awesome and they were deeply grateful. But then they had to walk through it. Put one sandaled foot in front of the other and trust that the God they had just seen take down a country plague by plague was not going to let that water fall down on them. That they could trust Him after years of slavery. That the very method of their rescue wasn’t going to turn into their demise. Was He on their side? This would be an easy way to take them out. They could all get in the middle of that sea and die there. And I wonder if this wasn’t part of the reason they had just spent a large portion of time and energy on the feast of Passover. On the consecration of the firstborn to God. On physical, embedded reminders that He was their God and they were His people. So they could begin to trust the One who built a wall of water on the right and on the left and choose to put one sandaled foot in front of the other.
And then I pictured them clutching children close as they walked through. Part adrenaline rush and belief in the power of a God who could do this, part terror that perhaps He wasn’t as concerned for their children’s safety as they were. Probably many miles of muttering under their breath, “Please, God. Please. You promised us the land. You promised us freedom from Pharaoh. You promised these children that they would be your descendants and would conquer.” It would have been a long journey of resting on the promises. But again, they had just spent an entire feast being reminded of the promises of God to them and to their children.
Once on the other side, as the realization sunk in that everyone had made it through safely, I think the knees would start shaking. Then, just as they were breathing a sigh of relief and wondering if perhaps God had simply made permanent walls of water and there was nothing to be afraid of, they would have seen Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian army enter that sea, confident that if Israel had slowly made it through, so could they in their sleek chariots pulled by fine horses. And the relief would have turned to a twinge of fear because they looked so powerful, so confident charging between those walls. Pursuing Israel with all the bluster and deceptive authority the Enemy can muster in those situations. And just as quickly as they felt the fear, a mixture of gratitude and horror took over as the walls came crashing down. On the right and on the left the kind of overpowering momentum only a massive body of water can produce. Covering an entire nation’s army. One of the greatest world powers. Gone.
I’m pretty sure at that point I might have vomited. From the exhaustion, fear, hope, awe, horror, and extreme gratitude of the moment. No glamour. Dirty, tired, but full of belief.
Unbelievably glad I wasn’t on the other side. That I was on the same team as this God who commanded the sea and the waves.
I don’t know about you but I rarely receive a call to go charging down a mountain on a horse “Man from Snowy River” style in my walk with God. But, boy, have I logged some miles with walls of water on the right and on the left. No way to pretend it was me accomplishing the salvation. No way to act like I wasn’t equally excited and terrified of where this was leading. It’s hard to do a showy walk on dry ground through a Red Sea lugging all that you own. Fairly impossible to look impressive when there are walls of water on the right and on the left. No way to do anything but put one foot in front of the other and let God bring us out of our slavery.
And I think our challenge will always lie in our mental and spiritual battle. Where is our focus? Am I looking at the walls of water – overwhelming, giant, insurmountable, dangerous, unpredictable, uncontrollable? Or are my eyes on the DRY GROUND THAT JUST SHOWED UP IN A SEA? The walls are so tall, but with a slight shift in focus the true miracle is beneath my feet. Dry ground. Simple dirt. A humble path from a God who rescues and saves. Not a yellow brick road that leads to a happily ever after. Believe me, we’ll all know when the happily ever after shows up. We’ll all be on our faces before Him. But for now, that seemingly humble path of dirt with lots of miles, and a desert, and some manna, and a bunch of quail, and a thirst-quenching rock, and eventually a Promised Land where we’re a part of His plan stretches on and I don’t know what’s next. Just one foot in front of the other. Clutching those I love close and whispering the promises God made to us. “You said we were yours. You said to go here. You said you would provide.” And He has. And He does. And He will.
I believe we must make it a priority to celebrate “Passovers” and dedicate ourselves continuously so that we are grounded firmly. Eyes in front. We are so quick to look back at what is known, even if it was slavery, and to be willing to stay in it. To think we would be happier if He would only leave us alone to do our thing. The thing that previously we were begging to leave. We beg for deliverance and then He says, “Move on!” How many times do we ask Him over and over and over what we should do next when we know good and well what we are supposed to do next! Walk on the path that is before us. The one we can’t control. The one we may not have chosen. The one with the scary unknown walls of water to the right and to the left. His patience cannot be comprehended by our finite minds. Thank God He doesn’t ask us for perfect faith and flawless performance. Thank God He accepts dusty feet…right, left, right, left. The battle belongs to the Lord.
As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.
You know what I want? I want to be the Israelite standing a little ways away from the crowd. The one with my mouth shut and my heart open. The one not using all my energy to complain that God rescued me from slavery, not telling Moses what he should be doing, not telling God what He should be doing, so that my ears might be the first to hear it. First a gurgling, then a swishing, then a rushing, then a deafening roar as the sea of my imprisonment does the bidding of a great God.
Our walls of water will always be moving, changing, rushing. Mine will be different than yours. Fear of a positive pregnancy test or a negative one. Fear of a spouse coming home or not coming home. Fear of waiting another year on a call that a child can be brought home, or fear that tomorrow the call will come and we will not be ready for the drastic life change ahead. Fear that there will not be enough, fear that we will be engulfed by the too much that is drowning and choking our society. Fear that there won’t be a tomorrow, fear that there will. Fear that there will be a diagnosis, fear that there won’t. Your wall will not be my wall, but the God who will hold those walls up and keep them from engulfing us? He is the Same yesterday, today, and forever.
Praying that I will always see the miracle in dry, dusty ground in front of me. Praying that my feet will always keep moving one in front of the other. Praying that I tune my ears to hear the first ripples of His plans. Because that dry, dusty path through the walls of water is going to lead to the Promised Land of hope and purpose as children of the King, and I don’t want to be waiting in my supposed safety on the other side.