I’ve been bouncing back and forth between two very distinct desires these past few weeks. The first is one that I’m not necessarily proud of – and yet – it’s still there. This “secret” desire once again to run away and stick my head in the sand. Run away from these newfound difficulties associated with my son FINALLY coming home from residential treatment. To run away from a recurring sense of additional responsibility and commitment– that despite the bible talking about “His yoke is easy and his burden is light” doesn’t feel like that’s really what’s going on here. In fact, it keeps feeling like the opposite.
On the other end of the teeter totter in my head, is my desire to keep doing what God’s asking of me. To follow Him unconditionally. And while it doesn’t necessarily feel like His burden is “light” – I all too easily and quickly forget what the same burden feels like without Him. I forget that there was a time when me worrying about things like how to structure an online school program and if I can get my now teenaged child to consistently do what he needs to do with it, would have been an out-of-reach luxury, because at that point, I couldn’t even manage to do the simplest things well or consistently. Or that the ups and downs – that I’m assured comes with the territory of the transition my family is going through is a normal experience – that when he gets so upset that he can’t seem to even physically control the emotions that overtake him and I am left to hold that line for him –and that when left alone, I’ve demonstrated time and time again how incapable I am at handling everything. When the waves of his outbursts would not only throw the boat of my emotions around but cause me, in my own lack of ability to hold everything together, to crash the boat against the shore and we would both be sunk into the whirling seas of despair, anger and frustration.
Oh, how easy it is to forget that without God, without the comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit – these things that had previously seemed like the most frustrating, inconvenient, turbulent times in the world and would normally overtake me in an instant, instead of now seeming like a bump in the road.
This morning, I again woke up tired, a little late and not quite ready to face the start of another workweek – mostly one that requires me to work for 13 hours. But I took a moment to read today’s passage in “my upmost for his highest”. The verse of the day was Isaiah 6:8: I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’”
A few months ago, after I lost the security of my job, I had been certain of what direction God was telling me take in my life. And I went for it. But a few weeks later, I received a different job offer in the same field, and was so, so very tempted to take it. I had been finding it a bit harder than I anticipated trying to train my brain to no longer think of everything in banking terms. The realization of the lack of employer offered insurance plans, the decrease in money, and the lack of some fringe benefits (like a months’ worth of vacation a year) were starting to sink in, and this job offer was starting to look better and better. But I couldn’t understand in that moment why, regardless of how hard I was trying to convince myself of the great path this would be, I couldn’t shake the feeling it was wrong. Then I heard it – heard Him.
He had already told me which path to take.
All I was chasing now was the security. The security that the world puts so much stock in which is nothing more than an illusion – a smoke screen trying to hide the truth. And for that I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t necessarily hear God in the first place.
Oswald Chambers points out in today’s passage that God never came after Isaiah, never tried to convince him or force him to be His prophet – God only put forth the call. That Jesus never tried to convince his disciples to follow him, there was never any external pressure, he simply extended the invitation. Any of them were free to leave at any point in time just as we are – it’s not as if Jesus had them in chains after all. I often hear in my church about how God equips the called. Anymore, that phrase often just goes over my head – in one ear and out the other type thing- but this offered a different twist I was desperate to hear today. God doesn’t just equip the called – like when Jesus called the disciples and then empowered them to take His message to all the earth – but he equips the willing. The faithful who will step up and say, “Yes Lord!”.
Over the past weeks, I keep going back to the Israelites, looking at the promised land that they had finally reached, and letting fear keep them from following God into the reality of that promise. I’m not saying in any way their reaction was right; however, to get to the edge of such a great promise and deliverance from God. After such a long journey, to see the fulfillment of God’s promise – to be standing on the edge of that promise, and realize – perhaps for the first time – that the actual fulfillment of that promise required more of them. A willing heart. To trust God for their deliverance, to set them free from slavery, was one thing, because even though God did it in such a way that they had to watch His power and might as He released the plagues upon the people of Egypt (which I imagine would have been frightening). To be delivered through the middle of the sea where there was literally no human path there. And then get to the edge of this amazing promise, where they would get back the land God had set apart for them, full of milk and honey and if I would have been there, I can easily believe that the image in my mind of this wonderful land would have been one of the major things to sustain me through that journey — to keep me moving through the desert. And they get their first real glimpse of this place that they’ve only imagined. And it’s full of enemies. Then they see that what some of them may have envisioned as the end of their journey, a point where they get to rest, set up their homes and land and enjoy life with God – after slavery and a long trek – they see that it’s only the beginning. That this promise will only come about through more work, more time – through hardship and battles. I’m not sure I would have understood much in that situation either.
And then Joshua, a generation later, picking back up. I can’t help but think that there must have still been fear there for God to say so many times to not fear and be courageous. To reiterate to him again, even after all Joshua had witnessed, that God will be with His people, with him…
It doesn’t escape me though that God never intended them to fight on their own – or even in “conventional” ways. God always had a plan to bring the promise into reality. That doesn’t change that they still had to make a choice to continue to follow Him though, to really commit to His plan and not their own version of how things should happen. God’s presence didn’t mean that they didn’t have to fight and keep going. To be willing to go…
Just like then, once again it all comes down to a simple choice. Is there ever a point where God isn’t enough? A point where my commitment and surrender to Jesus ends?
I feel like I’m standing on that same type of edge. It’s been such a hard, lonely journey. And I’ve been excitedly anticipating the point where I’d make it to my version of the promised land – having my boys back under the same roof. Thinking of how desperately I wanted this portion to be over – fighting to keep believing that God would somehow get us to that point. And now that it’s here – I feel surrounded by enemies and booby-traps, a point where I want to follow God, believe that he’s already charted the way through, and yet I don’t know how this will ever work. I’m tired from the journey behind me, and when confronted with the reality that perhaps the long journey, and the lessons along the way, were only to actually get to the real battle – It’s hard to keep perspective and not succumb to being overwhelmed and give in to defeat and fear and exhaustion. It’s also hard to view His yoke as anything but just plain crushing.
Which brings me back to the simple choice, the real bottom line of does that ending point ever exist, or do I choose to remain faithful to my commitment I made when I accepted Jesus’ invitation? Do I choose to say “Here I am Lord, send me!” and believe that He will provide and strengthen me regardless of the size of step He asks me to take? To allow Him to indeed lighten the load for me without compromising His mission for me? Or do I let my faith fizzle out become cold?
Maybe that’s the simply (and challenging)… to trust God enough, even when the path ahead is unsure, even when we find out that the road was just the trek to get to the battle, to just say, I’m here Lord, send me…. make me your giant slayer…