I pulled the plug this morning. On my pool.
It’s not a great pool – it’s pretty little, just about 36 inches tall and about 10 feet across. Nothing you can cannonball into, and stuck on the end of my patio, it certainly doesn’t do much for curb appeal. Just a big blue blob that has served as a sort of lifeline to my kids on those oppressively hot summer days that wouldn’t seem to end.
I’ve watched that blue blob deflate all morning – and I’m feeling all sorts of conflicted.
It seems to mark an end to something – but to what? The end of summer? I’m really ok with that, since this summer was just plain hard. The end of the challenges of 2020 – I’d like that to be true, but am not that naive. Maybe it marks the beginning of something? A fresh season – I’d gratefully embrace that! But deep in my gut I know that although the weather is fresher and cooler, not much is really changing in my life yet. Still kind of wandering in this desert we call 2020.
Just another day – only today, we pack away the pool. And I find myself reminiscing.
I won’t drag you into all those convoluted places with me. Some bring smiles, some bring tears – so here I sit, trying to find the words. A couple months ago, I asked the Lord where I should read next in my Bible. I don’t often have strong leanings on this – I kind of stumble around in my Bible until I find something that ignites a fire in me. Well, this time I felt very strongly that He wanted me to go through the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy? Really? Have you checked your calendar God? I’m thinking I need something a bit more encouraging than Deuteronomy. Funny thing is, as I flipped on over to towards the front of the book, I find myself identifying with what I was reading a whole lot more than I thought I would. We find Moses reminiscing through the first few chapters. And it’s not pretty. There’s been alot of God performing great miraculous acts – and the people of Israel failing Him. Again and again.
I read through this list of failures, and I’m grateful I’m not as bad as they are. You know, with the grumbling and complaining and wanting to go back… Then that familiar nudge hits my spirit – like when the Holy Spirit seems to be squinting His eyes, tilting His head and saying, “really?” Maybe I need to read this again.
How many times have I found myself rolling my eyes at those forgetful Israelites who just wanted to go back to Egypt. Back to slavery? Really?! Don’t you remember how God got you out? Don’t you remember all those tears, the agony of a life lived in oppression?
Then I hear my own voice, bemoaning all the changes 2020 has brought to my life, and I’m saying “how soon can we go back to ‘normal’?” Now, there’s nothing wrong with “normal”, but what if it holds layers of oppression and slavery that God is trying to shake us free from? Maybe “normal” is code for “Egypt” in my life. If I’m really honest with myself, I don’t sound much different than those forgetful Israelites.
Maybe I don’t like the changes to my life in 2020, but the changes He has wrought in me are for good! What lies in the dust of the past that He is trying to move me out of? Sometimes it’s easier to do what we’ve always done rather than take the big steps towards change … but He has parted the Red Sea of our habits and brought us into a new way of living! I think of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis musings: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Do you find yourself longing for the mud pies? Let’s not lose this opportunity by constantly wanting to go back to our “normal”.
Then this verse hit me like a brick wall: “Now, when the last of these fighting men among the people had died, the Lord said to me, “Today you are to pass…” Finally moving on! But why now? Why did the Lord wait until the last one died before calling His people on up? I always thought it was about the lack of obedience that ran through them – and I know that’s a great part of it. But this time, as I read it, I realized that God is bringing the Israelites into a new world to fight new battles with men who have never fought a battle in their lives. They couldn’t depend on the strength or prowess of their army – they could only trust in the power of God.
I say I trust in God. But somedays it seems like I’m leaning on the things of earth a whole lot more. There are so many patterns in my full time ministry life that rely on the power of man – from fundraising to connecting with people around the country. And none of them have happened this year. At least not in the way we’re used to. It would be easy for anxiety to creep in. It would be easy for me to run ahead and try to figure this out. It would be easy to try to “fix this” in my own strength. And yet my God still stands as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night.
Could it be that God is calling us out of our patterns and habits to each day look to see if the pillar is moving? Can you imagine how the Israelites lived for 40 years – peeking out of the tent each morning to see if the pillar has moved yet? Maybe we need a little more of this…
Rather than relying on the month of the year and what we “normally” do to keep life moving, maybe we should start looking to see where He is moving and wait in the shadow of His pillar. I find this altogether terrifying and exceedingly freeing at the same time. Because we’re really good at giving this concept lip service in the church, but how good are we at living it? I construct my to do list, and then I get frustrated with my kids when they interrupt my “progress”. Maybe the Pillar is moving in a different way today. Will I listen to the Holy Spirit’s nudge to simply go there? Without argument. Without complaint. Without my own agenda? Oh, it’s hard to unlearn a lifetime of self-sufficiency – thank you, 2020, for bringing me to this place!
And what about that manna?! My kids think it’s hilarious that the word “manna” simply means “what is it?” . Sometimes when God’s blessings show up in such strange and unexpected ways, you simply look out and say, “now, what would you call that one?” – kind of like a modern day “Whatchamacallit”. It seems this year has brought a daily supply of Whatchamacallits to my doorstep. But every. single. day. God’s provision shows up.
And I must confess – I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to my favorite things. I’m the one who will tuck my goodies away until they go bad rather than indulge in them all at once. I’m not proud of it. I just never want to run out of goodies. How I can relate to the Israelites on this one!
When you live in the daily insecurity of never knowing what the next day will bring, you want to hoard the familiar. The things you can depend on. What little control you have. And here God issues a resounding, “no”. He’s not giving into my whining. And when I overstep and try to take his provision into tomorrow, I find it has lost it’s flavor. Even turned rotten. I need to savor His goodness today, and expect fresh blessings tomorrow. “His mercies are new EVERY morning – Great is Your faithfulness!” Lamentations 3.
So these wilderness wanderings have me brought me right here. To this place of utter dependency. To a place of acceptance. To a place of peace. There is still plenty wilderness ahead of us – and battles to fight with untrained hands. But His pillar – it’s there! It leads us day by day. So let’s stop looking back. Let’s stop complaining about how life is different, here in this wilderness. Let’s start finding our manna.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11