Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Grace that Stills.

You ever make some no-so-great parent choices?

I do.  Most days, even. Here's a chart-topper: last year, when The Bible series was on TV, I let my 4-year-old watch it with me.  We got about 4 minutes into the story of Moses and Egypt and the plagues before I realized that he might not quite be ready to see an army of locusts come across the horizon of a blood-filled Nile.

We STILL have to talk him down about locust fears.

I could fill a blog with those stories, and make each of you feel better about your parenting. :)

But not today.

I do have a point to this.

We have been studying Exodus at church, and I just finished Priscilla Shirer's Gideon study, which referenced the story of the Israelites and the golden calf.  God had just rescued his people from Egyptian slavery, he has shown them his love and power through several miracles, and they turn away from him and make a golden calf to worship. I find this story to be one of the saddest in the entire Bible.

Yet, in the last month, I can't stop turning to it. I see myself there...

It's not like the sea's splitting was a distant memory. The details were still clear, the adrenaline could still be felt.

They could easily recall walking beneath the shadow of Moses' anointed staff, raised to heaven, pointing to the Authority of the waters.

The waters parted, finding a new road through the desert, or,  into the desert. Maybe not where you wanted a road to lead, but a road nonetheless. 

They could still hear Moses' broken, stuttered words demanding that they do not fear, that they could keep silent. That they should quit the incessant. fearful. whine.

They had just heard the good news that God would fight for them. 

I think they could still recount the details of the sea's alley, with the walls of water and wonder on each side, how God made their path straight.   

And the sweetened water was even fresher in their minds.  When mere days had passed from the sea splitting, the only water they had was sour.  A few days in the desert and bitterness rears it's head. "What shall we drink?"  they cried. As if the God of the seas couldn't be the God of a meager cup of water.   Bitterness-a common tag-along friend of fear.

But always God makes things new and he turned that bittered water into sweet.  

But as lips crack and throats dry from not drinking enough of God, they turn to their stomachs, empty and grumbling. And they dared say that they would rather stay in slavery, with it's comforts, than venture out in the unknown with this Desert God.

But the road-making, sweet-refreshing God shows them his abundant patience and rains down bread from heaven.

And when they bore from His daily sufficiencies he rains down more mercy alongside the manna, and brings them meat.  

 The early months in the desert seemed to be full of drama,  the acres of sand served as a grand stage for God to display who He was to his people.

I see myself in each of these situations. Maybe I would have been learning and changing and learning some more, as I have in my last year.

Maybe if stuck between Pharoah's army and a vast sea, I would have learned that sometimes God backs us into a corner, so that he alone can create a road out. 

And at the sour waters, maybe I would have learned that sometimes God leads us to identical reflections of our souls. Perhaps a bitter aftertaste from that water would have warned me of my susceptibility to sourness.

And maybe I would have learned with some of them, that He alone can change our sour, caustic souls into something sweet, and full of life.  Not just once, but every. single. day.

And how I hope, that when my hunger was quieted with daily manna, that I would trust this Desert God. That I would have the mustard seed of faith to joyfully trust him to provide for what is directly ahead of me.

And maybe, just maybe, I would be so wonderfully overwhelmed by the extravagance of the quail, that I could hardly bring myself to eat it.

But would have eaten it. Definitely.

Maybe I would have learned those lessons with them.  

But what would I have done next? When the people set up camp at the base of Mount Sinai and Moses journeys up the peak to hear from God, it says this:

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

I have a journal full of sea-splitting-sourness-turned-sweet-daily-bread stories, stories not just from years ago but recent months.  I can still taste the sweet waters of Jesus's redemption and healing on my lips, my feet have just walked the path of roads that I did not know existed.  I have feasted on the daily provisions of God's presence and Word.


But now.  

There seems to be a bit of a delay.

The dramatic desert dust has settled, the waters of the sea have stilled.  The daily provisions of strength, hope, and peace keep falling into my lap.

Yet I'm standing at the base of the mountain, on my tip-toes, and my neck is cranked back, looking up, waiting for God to reveal his purposes and plans.  And my neck is cramping and my eyes are straining, wondering when, when do we get to find out? 

And as my drama-lovin, impatient flesh grows in ugly confidence it starts looking for a balm to soothe the annoyance of waiting.

Maybe that's what happened to the Israelites.  They were at the base of the mountain of God, waiting for God to show them what was next.  Anticipating Moses to return with God's plan. Maybe they were ready to arrive.  Aren't we all?  We are just ready to get to the land God has for us.  Maybe, as the perceived delay drew on, the Israelites started craving some control. They wanted something to alleviate this discomfort of having to wait and trust on God.

We, and the Israelites, can go through times when God moves quickly and powerfully, almost with drama. He speaks clearly, he guides, he provides.

But sometimes, He sees it good to delay.

But a delay can make us crave control, right?    So sometimes, when my neck just can't withstand the posture of waiting and my feet tire from marching about at the foot of the mountain, I get why they made the calf. 
I get that temptation.  If I could just create a god that would let me get busy, let me feel like I had some control, let me feel what I want to feel and hurry back to what I know, then maybe we could get this show on the road.

I get it.  I see why it was so easy to tithe off their gold earrings, and watch with eager anticipation as Aaron fashioned a calf.  This calf brought with it familiar comfort of Egypt, our pastor said. Nevermind that it was the familiarity of slavery and chains and whips.  And they could throw a few churchy words or habits around the calf to keep their conscience quiet.

I know I'm there, at the base of the mountain. With a decision.  I could pace and wear down a path of worry or antsy energy, which will feed and validate this idea of fashioning a calf.  A god that is a bit more in my control.  A god that is a bit quicker.  A god that is a bit safer, a bit more moldable into my preferences.


I could plop my tush down at the base of the mountain.  Ask God to still my pacing soul, still my stir-crazed canter. And I'll keep scanning the mountain top, keep watching for God to reveal to us his plans, his purposes.  He'll come.  He will tell us what's next.

And I'll hustle as I wait, as my dad says. I have plenty of material to process through.  The split seas.  The sweetened water.  The daily manna.  The abundant quail.

I have each of these in my last year. And that is enough.  Each provision of God screams of His faithfulness, and each quiets my soul.

And that's a good place to be. Quieted. Stilled.

By grace.


  1. These words so clearly describe my own desert excperience this past year. Thank you for your encouragement and honestly. You put into words what I've been feeling and I can see how early I've become bitter and tried to take control because I'm afraid and have quickly forgotten the miracles He's already performed in my life and the promise He gives. Thank you for reminding me.