Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Round and Round

Have you ever been there....walking in circles, your life stuck in the same cycle....over and over and over and over?  I have too, and it isn't a fun place to be.  I may think my situation is unique, but it's not.  People have been walking in circles since the book of Numbers was written, which was....well, a long time ago.

In Numbers, the Israelites were in one of those cycles.  I'll give you the short version of their story.  They were in slavery.  Bad, right?  God rescued them.  And he didn't just open up the gates of freedom and say, "You're free to go!"  But he pulled out all the stops.  He turned water to blood, he sent frogs, gnats, flies...  He covered the slave-owners in boils and finally, he killed the first born sons of the people who were enslaving the Israelites.  God was sending the message that He's no joke.  Then, on their way out, he parted the Red Sea for his people to cross through.  I mean, come on people - God. parted. a. sea.  A sea!  He made the water move out of the way for you.  If that's not miraculous, I'm not sure what is.  If that doesn't make you believe in the power and majesty of God, then you've got no hope.  Right?  So after that amazing rescue what follows is an endless flow of praise and thanks for their God.  I wish.  That would be the appropriate response, but it's not the Israelites' response.  Actually, it was just the opposite.  Out of their mouths came an incessant flow of complaining and whining.  They complain about the food.  They complain about their leaders.  They complain about the promised land that God wants to give them.  As a result of their doubting, their mistrust, their lack of gratitude, they wander in the dessert.  For 40 years!!  40 years of wandering because they choose to give themselves to fear and cravings instead of giving themselves to God and trusting.  Just trusting.

Every time I read this story I get so mad at these dumb people.  "Why can't you open your eyes?!  God showed you how amazing He is over and over!  He poured out his extravagant love on you in the form of a magnificent rescue.  He even manifested himself in the form of a CLOUD that stayed with could actually SEE him.  On top of that, he provided supernatural food for you each day.  What's your problem??"

Then...I feel a tap on the shoulder.  It's God, and he's pointing to the story...the part where the people are ungrateful.  The part where God has shown up two chapters before in miraculous ways and yet this chapter the people don't believe.  The part where the people are walking in circles because they aren't trusting Him.  He says, "See that?  Right now, that's your story too."  And it is.

God has rescued me so many times.  He has provided innumerable things for me and my family.  When someone asks me why I believe in God my answer is I believe because I've seen him work in my life, in my family's life.  I've seen his hand and I hear his voice.  Just like the Israelites.  Yet, just like those dumb Israelites I am often a silly girl who forgets and I find myself complaining, doubting, and therefore walking in circles.

I've decided I'm tired of circles.  Aren't you?  They're so pointless.  They're demoralizing and frustrating.  Mainly, they get us nowhere fast.  I don't want to go nowhere.  I want to go somewhere.  Don't you?

So what's our exit strategy?   I think it's found in the same story.  See, if you're going in circles in your life, like I feel like I sometimes am, we can recognize the story we're in and we can choose to exit that story and step into the one God has written for us.  That's the great news.  God had planned great things for his people the Israelites.  He had planned for them to enter this beautiful land full of God's abundance...but they wouldn't go.   They were afraid.  They chose to trust their past experience, their desire for comfort, their craving for the tasty foods of Egypt (the land they were enslaved in)...they trusted those things but not God.  But there was one.  Caleb.  He chose to trust God.  He decided that although the odds looked like they were stacked against them, that God overcame all of those odds.  He decided that if God had told them to "Go," then God would make a way.  He proclaimed that God being on their side was the only thing they should take into account when deciding whether to follow God or not.  And Caleb was right.  The proof is that he was the only one (the only ONE) who got enter the promised land.

So, today we get to choose.  What is God asking you to do?  Has he told you a direction to go in?   Maybe....apologize to someone who is unforgivable?   Quit your job with all its comforts and go in a different direction?  Step up and lead in a new and unfamiliar area?  Whatever it is, you have a choice.  You can choose to follow God into the promised land or continue to walk in circles in the dessert.  You can choose abundant life in God's hands or a keep doubting in the dessert and walk in circles in your strength.  Doesn't seem like a hard decision does it?

You only have to choose.  God will do the rest.  You don't have to have a plan of how you're going to follow him.  He's got that for you.  You just have to follow.  You have to let him guide your steps instead of letting fear take you in circles.

I don't know about you, but I will choose God.  I'm tired of the circles.  They stink.

23The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.
Psalm 37:23-24

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